As part of The Roasterie’s branding initiative, the Kansas City-based coffee company sought to open a new café within its existing manufacturing plant. Here, guests would be allowed an intimate view of the process and more through guided tours, tastings and other interactive programming. However, the five existing industrial buildings were disjointed and aesthetically off-base, requiring significant modifications. Lastly, the client had a bold vision for the exterior that involved an actual airplane in keeping with the Roasterie motto, "live life on the rim."
When IAA began work on the Roasterie Factory Café, our team quickly realized this would be a different project. Roasterie owner, Danny O'Neill had come up with an ambitious vision for the new company headquarters. He travels the world sourcing the absolute best coffee beans to bring back to Kansas City after having learned about different crops, processes, peoples, and cultures. And so, when O'Neill led the design team to Ottawa, Kansas to check out an old plane in the middle of a field to be used “somewhere on the property,” no one was particularly surprised by the unique concept. The DC-3 aircraft that was ultimately plucked from the yard dates from the 1930’s. Affectionately referred to as the "workhorse of the airways" and "queen of transports," it and others like it revolutionized the airline industry. Much like the DC-3 for air travel, O’Neill and The Roasterie have been local game-changers, pioneering the craft coffee movement within Kansas City in recent years. And so, the addition of the aircraft to the factory seems appropriate in more ways than one. Once back from Ottawa, and with the pièce de résistance selected, the team worked to integrate it into the design. After much back-and-forth – and more than one napkin sketch – it was decided - the plane would be taking off from the rooftop! (Sort of.) Our team of designers and engineers wanted to deliver a visual experience with maximum impact. By positioning the DC-3 as though it’s taking off, the entire structure has an air of fluidity, as if it’s ever-progressing, much like the brand itself. To achieve this effect, meticulous planning was needed. In order not to compromise the integrity of the structure below, the 18,300 pound aircraft is actually supported by a steel structure, mostly independent from the building itself. The DC-3 rests about six feet above the Roasterie rooftop upon a frame emerging from the ground on the west side of the building and connected to the top of the masonry on the east, achieving a bridge-like effect. To ensure stability, our team performed geotechnical tests on the soil below making sure it could withstand the pressure. External forces like wind velocity, wind load, and uplift were calculated and accounted for to be sure the aircraft doesn’t actually take off. The tires were filled with sand to avoid gradual movement and settling over time. The configuration of the steel structure and all its components – trusses, anchors, braces, lateral connectors, chords, etc. – were discussed ad nauseam and tested, reviewed, and improved to guarantee safety for the foreseeable future. The aircraft was hoisted atop the building on September 11, 2012, and is a powerful visual representation of the company’s mission and insistence to "live life on the rim."