Muriel Kauffman, Ewing Kauffman, the Kauffman Foundation, Kauffman Stadium, Muriel Kauffman theater, Helzberg Hall, Downtown, Moshe Safdie, Yasuhira Toyota, acoustics, theaters, performing arts center, Lyric Opera, Kansas City Symphony, Kansas City Ballet, Julia Kauffman, Casavant Freres Organ
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is simply stunning. Awing. In every facet — from the smallest of details to the immense challenge of keeping such a complicated structure upright — the phenomenal architecture of the Kauffman is renowned worldwide for its intricate and impeccable high-tech style design and execution.
It truly is a wonder to gaze upon, the rolling, enormous shell-shaped roofs of the equally grandiose theaters beneath them glinting silver here and gold there… but mere words do its grandness no justice. Have a look for yourself:
Long has the Kauffman family been present and influential in Kansas City (hint: ever hear of Kauffman Stadium? Muriel and husband Ewing founded the Kansas City Royals professional baseball team). It was Muriel McBrien Kauffman who brought forth the idea of the performing arts center in the 1990s, but passed away shortly thereafter. Her daughter Julia assumed her mother’s mission whilst establishing the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation — and in 1999, that foundation acquired 18 and-a-half acres at 16th and Broadway Boulevard for the foundation of the performing arts non-profit project.
Some five years of construction, 27 thick steel tension cables and tens of thousands of square feet of glass later, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is an inspiration and encouragement to the current Kansas City renewal and redevelopment movement.
The innovative design of architectural and award-winning genius, Moshe Safdie, blossomed from a mere sketch on a paper napkin while dining with Julia Kauffman, as she described her vision for the center. Safdie was an expert in his field, but the precise measurements, acoustics and knowledge required for the best quality projection in theater construction necessitated a professional. Yasuhira Toyota joined the team, a talented and widely-known acoustician.
And within, the Kauffman Center is as impressive as its exterior. The main lobby is “an expansive glazed porch contained by a glass tent-like structure,” explained Safdie. Encased in glass paneling from floor to (and including part of) the ceiling, the lobby’s official title is the Brandmeyer Great Hall.
To stand within the Great Hall is an experience in and of itself. By day, it is bright and airy and gleaming, with white accents galore — including the tall poles and expansive stairwells. Everything seems aglow in the sunshine. By night, the city panorama view from behind the glass-paneled wall is lit up brilliantly against the depths of the black sky.
Each exterior half-shell houses a theater. The Muriel Kauffman Theater, named for the originator of the center, boasts a capacity of 1,800 guests in a half-circle around the stage, in the classic European style. Plus, should the performance of your choosing be in a foreign language, the Muriel Kauffman theater offers convenient seat-back screens with English subtitles. The Muriel stage covers an expanse of 5,000 square feet — the official performance center for both the Lyric Opera and the Kansas City Ballet organizations.
The second theater is Helzberg Hall, and the official performance center for the Kansas City Symphony. Helzberg Hall holds 1,600 seats and a most remarkable Casavant organ, created by the French masters from Casavant Freres in Quebec, Canada. Casavants are considered of the highest quality, and the Kauffman Center claims this particular organ, Opus 3875, is “one of the finest concert hall organs in the country.”
The organ parallels what Kansas Citians and architects around the world know — the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is one of the finest pieces of structural design in the country.