Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity Wins Prestigious Preservation Honor Award

BNIM announced today that one of its projects was selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to receive a prestigious Preservation Honor Award, which is given annually as part of the Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Awards. The Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, located in Kansas City, Missouri, received the award for the conscientious transformation of the former Union Station Power House to accommodate a new tenant, Kansas City Ballet. BNIM was the architect for the project and worked with Architectural & Historical Research, LLC, Downtown Council of Kansas City, JE Dunn Construction, Kansas City Ballet, and MC Reality Group, LLC.

The relocation of Kansas City Ballet involved preservation and adaptive reuse of the 52,000-square feet historic Power House facility, a former coal-burning plant designed by Jarvis Hunt and completed in 1914. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, the building sat abandoned from the 1970s until 2006.

“When we first looked at the building, we knew that it met all the requirements for a new home for us,” said Jeffrey Bentley, executive director of Kansas City Ballet. “It was an urban building with the parking, natural light, and volumes of space we needed for our dancers, students, and staff. But standing there looking at the decay of the abandoned Power House and trying to envision the building filled with dancers and children and creative beauty made it seem like an outlandish idea. Of course, very often it’s those outlandish ideas that are the right ones. We couldn’t be happier with the results.”

Transforming the Power House was a monumental task. Chemicals and heat from the coal-burning process, followed by decades of exposure to the elements, had slowly eaten away at building components. Rehabilitation of the building, adhering to The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, included reinforcement to the building’s structural elements, replacement of concrete, a new roof, and major repairs to masonry, terra cotta detailing and fenestration.

“It is significant that the large spaces were not divided and compartmentalized beyond recognition,” said Cydney Millstein, historian and owner of Architectural & Historical Research, LLC, the Kansas City-based cultural resources consulting firm who assisted the preservation efforts. “Originally this building featured spaces with great height and width. If you look at historic plans and photographs, you see that the building’s original spatial configurations as a power generation facility have not changed much with the Ballet’s new home.”

BNIM’s design team found ways to weave historic elements into the overall vocabulary of KCB’s incoming spaces. On the interior, BNIM’s design repurposed industrial remnants for new use or visual interest: salvaging a gantry crane and hook as a visual element, repurposing original coal funnels into pendant light fixtures, turning original coalbunkers into dressing rooms, preserving a section of conveyor system that once transported ash and coal, adapting the pivot window hardware to support new light shelves, and referencing the placement of the Power House’s original furnaces with glass infill to mark their former location in the new lobby space.

BNIM’s design was inspired by the role that “energy” plays in both the history and future of the building.

“Very early in the process we realized that this was not just about transforming an important building,” said Steve McDowell, design principal at BNIM. “It was also about a new energy, a transformational energy that will propel this building into the next 100 years. The old energy was coal that moved through the building and would power Union Station and the precinct. The new energy is a creative power that is the product of the students and professional dancers—beauty, creativity and art.”

Since its opening in September 2011, the Bolender Center has received ten other awards from various design, building industry, and civic organizations including the International Concrete Repair Institute, Historic Kansas City Foundation, American Institute of Architects Kansas City and Kansas chapters, Associated General Contractors of America, and Kansas City Economic Development Corporation, among others.

The Bolender Center and other winning projects will receive the award at the 2011 Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Awards ceremony in Spokane, Wash., on Friday, November 2.

More about the Bolender Center here and here. For the National Trust's press announcement, please click here.