Hallmark’s gift to Kansas City

A timeless transformation of Crown Center Square

by James 30 October 2009 Urban design
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    Crown Center Square in Kansas City was transformed from a compromised mixed use urban space with limited connectivity into an inviting urban plaza that promotes through-fare and respite time, supported by multiple water features and a tactile and visual high quality space.

    The original square was conceived as a drop off vehicle court around a fountain at the center of the mixed use development envisioned by Hallmark's founders in the 1960's. The complex evolved to include extensive office space, a shopping center, hotels, housing and public amenities.

    The client brief was to bridge over Grand Avenue to engage retail activity, to restore the construction integrity of the space since it laid over a parking structure and to create a high quality public space to hold year-round themed events, all with the condition that the traditional City Christmas Tree Ceremony could not be disrupted by construction. In response, ZGF Architects, LLP developed a few design elements to enhance the existing context.

    A central axial series of water features visually integrates the multiple office campus terraces to the retail across Grand Avenue. An iconic main water feature with programmable light, music and water shows is the central community focus.Flanking alleys of trees frame the central granite plaza and fountains, directly connect walkways between buildings and provide extensive tree canopy for shaded resting spaces.Paving materials integrate the order of the existing complex's structural patterns in subtle patterns and enrich the complex's palette with warmer colors in brick and granite.

    Quality materials, strong construction measures and movable furnishings maximize flexibility of use and durability. The square is used year-round for public festivals so it must endure heavy vehicular traffic on a space over a parking structure, heavy pedestrian usage and year round fountain usage.

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