In juxtaposition to the sophisticated, acoustical paneled look of Helzberg Hall, the Muriel Kauffman Theater, home of Kansas City Ballet and Lyric Opera of Kansas City, is both festive and exuberant. The three balconies envelop the hall in a horseshoe-like enclosure, with each balcony broken down into a series of steps cascading from the center rear balcony to the individual boxes on either side of the stage. The stepping enhances sight lines and provides for a sense of intimacy and connection with the action on the stage. The balcony balustrades are a contemporary reinterpretation of the gilded, glittering, candle-lit balconies of 18th and 19th century theaters. The 1,800-seat Muriel Kauffman Theatre is designed to be visually striking while providing an intimate experience for both audiences and performers. Inspired by the great opera houses of Europe, the layout seats audiences in front of the stage in a variation on the traditional horseshoe configuration — bringing them closer to the performers than in traditional auditorium-style venues.
The Kauffman Center’s two performance venues, Helzberg Hall and Muriel Kauffman Theatre, each have stacked rings of white plaster walkways and lounge areas which are carpeted in blue and red, respectively. Seen from the outside at night, the reflection of these colors create a purplish-pinkish glow at the center of the great hall.
At night, the entire building becomes inverted, displaying all of its interior activities to the community outside. “The Kauffman Center will be a beacon for Kansas City — a transparent and welcoming place that radiates warmth and invites the community to come together. And as a hub for Kansas City’s performing arts, the Center will play a vital role in the social fabric of the region, linking both people and neighborhoods,” explained Moshe Safdie, architect of the Kauffman Center. “This sense of connectivity continues in the halls themselves, which have been designed to create unparalleled intimate experiences for both artists and audiences.”
Though only six months old, The Kauffman Center is beginning to further advance the role of the arts as a catalyst for the educational, civic, and economic vitality of Kansas City.
All photos by Nathaniel Ross for Inhabitat