The technical requirements and exacting standards required of a facility like the Kauffman Center made it one of the most complex structures in the world to design and build. The building, which took nearly five years to complete, contains 40,000 square feet of glass, 25,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 27 steel cables. The main lobby, Brandmeyer Great Hall, is built of a glass ceiling and sloping glass walls that provide a panoramic view of Kansas City to the south. The twenty-seven steel cables on the south façade are anchored in embeds that weigh approximately one and a half tons, and the embeds are an extension of the foundation and bedrock beneath the building. When the steel cables were pulled taut during the construction process, the entire steel structure shifted two to six inches to the south. This tensioning provides stability to the structure and keeps the glass lobby securely in place. The Kauffman Center covers 13 acres (53,000 m2), including landscaped grounds over the 1,000-space, city-owned Arts District Garage. The cost of the project was approximately $413 million, which includes both a $40 million operating endowment and the city’s $47 million construction of the parking garage. The Kauffman Center was designed by lead architect Moshe Safdie, acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, theater consultant Richard Pilbrow, and engineering firm Arup. Local firm BNIM was the associate architect. Lead contractor was J.E. Dunn Construction Group of Kansas City.
The center’s exterior consists of two symmetrical half shells of vertical, concentric arches that open toward the south. Each shell houses one acoustically independent performance venue, although the backstage area is shared. The south façade of the Center is made entirely of glass. Safdie describes the lobby as “an expansive glazed porch contained by a glass tent-like structure.” For those inside Brandmeyer Great Hall, the glass puts Kansas City on display; for those on the outside, the Kauffman Center becomes like a terrarium, revealing the thousands of attendees backlit against the white interior.
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