Grand Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center

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Grand Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center

This commission called for an addition of a 3,700 square meter ballroom to the existing Kansas City (Missouri, USA) Convention Center. The room was required to accommodate plenary sessions, exhibits, and function as a celebratory civic gathering place. With supporting public and service space, the project comprises 12,000 square meters. The site is located in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, a metropolitan region of 2 million people. A master planning process addressing the convention center and future urban planning opportunities resulted in the decision to locate the project in an air-rights zone over an existing sunken 17-lane interstate freeway. The building is a bridge connecting to the existing convention center on the north and extending a city block south of the freeway span. This project was an initial part of a larger downtown redevelopment effort, currently underway, to repair effects of the interstate system on the city. The site is situated just north of a new performing arts center and a lively arts neighborhood. A new arena and entertainment center have been constructed to the east, next to the central business district. The site topography provides dramatic views of these areas and other parts of city beyond. The project is the first step in reconnecting the city on both sides of the freeway. The site is organized with exterior public space and access on the south and east sides to take advantage of light, views, and public transportation routes. Primary service functions are on the west side, close to freeway access and internal building service circulation. At the site’s southeast side, an arrival canopy extends from the building to announce a lower level main entrance and flanks a large open event lawn. An upper exterior event plaza with a direct ballroom entrance overlooks the lawn and contains artwork commissioned by the city. Inside, the ballroom is divisible into 3 spaces. Pre-function space wraps the ballroom on the east and south perimeter. The moveable partitioning system at the ballroom’s south edge allows the flexibility to expand the enclosed ballroom space an additional 650 square meters and open it up for dramatic views from the inside and exterior. Support facilities occur on the ballroom’s west and north edges. A clerestory system provides the ballroom natural and decorative artificial light from 3 of the upper perimeter sides. This system can operate to balance the light provided by the opening at the room’s south end. DESIGN STATEMENT: Our intent was to create a civic place with a distinct memorable character. Our approach to the building form is a direct response to the robust character of the existing exhibition hall and a contextual effort to complement the sculpturally shaped architectural forms of new downtown buildings, including the performing arts center and arena. Relative to the existing exhibition hall, a contrasting combination of transparency, crisp massing, and the qualities of shadow and reflection are key properties of the design. The orthogonal composition of the structure and enclosure system is a deliberate counterpoint to the dynamic form of the exposed truss structure and pylon tension cables of the adjacent exhibit hall. The vocabulary is also a foil to the curved sculptural form of the performing arts center. The new building is tied to the convention center through a subtle coloration of metal panel cladding, assigned to enhance proportions and emphasize the primary and secondary building form generators. The east facade at the street is expressed as a colonnade and horizontal canopy set in front of a glass wall which sits on a pre-cast concrete base. The colonnade culminates in a large open arrival canopy which anchors the complex to the south end of the site. The spacing of the column structure organizes the building enclosure and interior. For the pedestrian, the repetitive exterior system conveys the idea of connection over the highway in a simple way. At the ballroom’s south end, this system is repeated in a larger fashion and faces the outdoor space. The exterior cadence carries up and into the pre-function space on the east. Here it becomes a restrained prelude to the more fluid decorative motif of the ballroom interior. Within the space, sculptural form, reflection and pattern are varied references to water and connect the space with the city, which is located at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers and known as the “City of Fountains`. Light flowing into the ballroom through a translucent stretched membrane varies throughout the day and connects occupants with the outside. The clerestory light can also be blacked-out or color-animated to achieve dramatic effects. SUSTAINABILITY/TECHNICAL INFORMATION: Below is a list of qualities and elements incorporated into the project: LEED Certified Silver by USGBC • Largest Digitally Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI) in USA • Recycled steel, concrete content, and environmentally friendly construction methods • First Ballroom in USA with balanced day-lighting system • Water efficient fixtures and systems • Exterior overhangs and sunscreen systems • Overall enclosure and HVAC systems were modeled, and results project a 21.6% annual energy savings relative to an ASHRAE base model. Exterior Systems • Insulated and rain-screen metal panel systems • Pre-cast concrete base and soffit (over highway) locally produced • Insulated-laminated glass curtain wall system • White membrane roof/insulation system – anti-heat island measure Interior Systems • Metal panel ceiling with reflective metallic paint, micro-perforated for acoustic performance • Newmat stretch fabric light diffusing membrane • GFRG custom formed wall panels • Operable partitions with non-PVC-based wall covering • Sapele wood veneer wall covering from FSC certified forests • Decorative and task lighting integrated with air, speaker and rigging systems within ceiling Structural • Composite pre-cast/pre-stressed with girder assembly support at new city bridges, exterior paving and interior support space • Long-span structural steel floor support system with high load capacity and vibration control at ballroom and pre-function over highway • Support columns and girders custom designed for clearance between irregularly spaced highway lanes • Long-span steel roof system with integrated rigging point and airwall support

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