Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: Kansas City, MO

Lighting Designer:

The Kauffman Center shines a light on the KC skyline

Located at the convergence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, and traversing the border of two States is Kansas City, well-known for barbecue, jazz, and cornfields. This metropolitan area in the American heartland also has an impressive cultural center that is energizing its downtown neighborhood. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts comprises both a 1,600-seat concert hall and a 1,800-seat performing arts theater that are home to the Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Symphony and Lyric Opera of Kansas City, all formerly located in Kansas City’s Lyric Theater. The Kauffman Center was designed by Moshe Safdie and BNIM while Lam Partners was the lighting designer.

The Muriel Kauffman Theater and Helzberg Hall are two discrete buildings suited to their distinct purposes, but harmoniously tied together with a glazed foyer and magnificent glass lobby wall. As a whole, these two south-facing theaters create a dramatic shell-like structure on a hilltop with views of Kansas City. Their dynamic waves reflect natural light and hint at the motion and grandeur that guests will experience inside. For all the majesty of the architecture, the interior of the theaters is warm and intimate. Outdoor performances and a public gathering space are situated on five acres of green lawn surrounding the Center.

The project was in the works for 15 years and was completed in 2011 for US$ 326 million. This artistic and civic achievement has received major accolades from The New York Times, among other critics, for its physical structure and bravura music and dance performances. In 2012 it won multiple awards, including the AL Light and Architecture Award for Outstanding Achievement, the IES Award of Merit and the IES Section Award.

The awards laud the way the interiors and exteriors are lit in a “seemingly simple yet technically sophisticated way”. According to AL Magazine, “the lighting provides an intimate feel and sets the stage for the spectacle within. The lighting of the back facade is particularly dramatic.”

On the north façade of the Kauffman Center, stainless steel-sheathed arched walls impressively cover the performing halls. WE-EF FLC141 projectors are used to illuminate the pre-cast concrete perpendicular walls that punctuate the arches, highlighting the three-dimensionality of the structure. The projectors, which are discreetly mounted in the landscaping on custom triple mounting brackets and concealed by architectural niches, softly wash the concrete walls.

The luminaires are equipped with symmetric medium distribution optics and 150 W metal halide lamps. Snoots are used to increase visual comfort for pedestrians while also helping to focus the optics on the arches.