Designed by Safdie Architects, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts sits confidently on the Kansas City’s horizon, and its unique architectural form—a ribbed, helmetlike shape—gives the city a notable landmark. While the building as a whole has a sizeable urban presence, the real cause for celebration is its technical prowess, most of which is hidden in its structure, acoustical performance, and lighting. The center is actually several structures in one, wrapped in an envelope of metal and glass. It has two main performance halls—Helzberg Hall and the Muriel Kauffman Theater—each of which is structurally independent of one another as well as the main glass-enclosed lobby area known as Brandmeyer Hall.

Lam Partners, with the assistance of local firm Derek Porter Studio, have lit the interiors and exteriors in a seemingly simple, yet technically sophisticated, way. For example, five different luminaires work in concert to illuminate the entry drive and its architectural features. In Brandmeyer Hall, PAR38-IR spotlights are mounted directly to the tubular steel beams and provide the space with complementary lighting at night, which otherwise relies on daylight. Despite the scale of the building, the lighting provides an intimate feel and sets the stage for the spectacle within.

Jury Comments: The lighting cohesively brings all the different spaces together. • The lighting of the back facade is particularly dramatic.


Architect: Safdie Architects, Somerville, Mass., with BNIM, Kansas City, Mo.
Lighting Designers: Lam Partners, Cambridge, Mass., with Derek Porter Studio, Kansas City, Mo.
Photographer: Michael Spillers
Project Size: 356,000 square feet
Project Cost: $304 million
Watts per Square Foot: Missouri has no energy code
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