Kansas City Urban Design 2012

If one were to study the existing city construct of Kansas City, a perspective of a city without identity or without an ideal structure would possibly be taken. As it exists today, the parts of Kansas City lack identities that connect themselves to the city. The development that has occurred on the average existing block is less than the potential in which the block can efficiently manage. This situation is clearly visible as one experiences the city as a viewer. While it is true that the scale and density of the city transform to meet the needs or character of a district or location of the city, this is not the factor that leads to Kansas City’s lack of identity when compared to the city as a whole. The potential being considered is specifically the activity along the ‘public realm’ of the streets and urban spaces. This activity is strengthened by the programs of the buildings and a continuous edge of streetscape.

If considering this as a platform for the project, the premise of this project is an exploration of creating urban space in an existing urban context. [See Figure 1] If the order of the grid in American cities is the restraining logic to the creation of architecture in the city, each of the main thoroughfares within Kansas City are used as a starting point in which to define a continuous and linear space. Because of the dense and vertical urban fabric that resides within the loop, or what is considered the city core, major streets that crossed throughout this section of the city were given priority over major vehicular routes that may occur in the surrounding city outside of the city core.

Figure 1

Figure 2

This approach determined that five main routes provide a network in which the existing cultural and economic districts are linked. If the space, as defined by the street, sidewalks, and edges of buildings, was conditioned, Kansas City will obtain a sense of identity and orientation for its residents.  In the North-South alignment, Broadway Boulevard, Main Street, and Grand Street were chosen as major routes in Kansas City that progressed through the city’s core. In the East-West axis, 12th Street was determined as the main route that connected the West Bottoms, loop, and the eastern section of the city. Southwest Boulevard, with runs obliquely to the cardinal directions and neglects the city’s core, was established as a primary means in which the Crossroads District is linked to the major means of the city. [See Figure 2]

Using these five streets as a starting point, Main Street, which runs an almost 11 mile stretch in the North and South axis, and 12th Street, which courses 7 miles would be the extent of concentration and the primary means in which a liner urban space would be created. The remaining spaces of Broadway, Grand, and Southwest Boulevard would be considered secondary or tributary spaces, in relation to the Main and 12th Streets.

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At the situation in which two of the studied routes intersect, a site is established. Four primary sites will serve as the context in which to propose buildings and projection screens. The arrangement and proportion of buildings within the existing situation, or accidental spaces, is intended to create a circumstance in which an interaction between building and screen can create a containing edge and a contemporary urban space is considered. [See Figure 3 + 4] Furthermore, the experience of a viewer in relation to urban space is strengthened by the interaction of the screens to the buildings as well as physical public space that is elevated above the street level. The sequence of the elevated spaces is intended to formulate a condition in which Steven Holl addresses: “Planimetric organization is insufficient in a city of tall buildings. Spatial perception and development in an urban setting require a three-dimensional, sectional, approach that gives primary importance to the views of perambulated residents who traverse shifting ground planes, experiencing the city from multiple frames of reference.” [See Figure 5 + 6 + 7]  While the program and function of the proposed buildings have not yet been established, a generous proportion of civil programming will be considered within each building.   

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Figure 7

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Outside of the four major intersection sites, a series of smaller intermediate nodes are established. [See Figure 8] The sectional qualities of the topography along both major streets as well as the appropriate human walkable distance influenced the placement of these nodes along the streets. Nine node positions are positioned along Main Street with 7 nodes along 12th Street. Each sequential node will be visible by the previous node. Also, the location of each node will be easily approachable by any pedestrian, with no two nodes more than ¾ of a mile from each other. (A building of similar proportions and materials as the primary intersections will be proposed and stand as a backdrop to activities that may occur.) A sense of neighborhood and ownership may also be established by the residents, or used as a way to familiarize oneself within the city as a whole. It is easy to imagine a resident explaining that they reside only four blocks from node 7, for example. 

To further strengthen the idea of linear space within our modern time, the activity that occurs within the secondary nodes will be broadcast and projected onto the lcd screens of the four primary urban spaces. The notion of being a presence of the urban space in a digital format with the possibility of physically being in a separate node or position within Kansas City will generate a sense of unity and identity on a separate level that was not previously experienced within the city.