Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts a Reality Thanks to Performance
Contracting, Georgia-Pacific & Radius Track
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Muriel McBrien Kauffman’s vision, 10 years in planning and construction
materialized September 16, 2011 with the grand opening of the Kauffman
Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri.
Built on a hilltop overlooking the city, the Center offers sweeping views of
the city while patrons enjoy performances in a center built for acoustical
performance. The Center covers 13 acres and is approximately 285,000 square
feet with two technically sophisticated performance spaces: the 1,800-seat
proscenium-style Muriel Kauffman Theatre and the 1,600-seat concert Helzberg
Hall. The Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall are two distinct
structures, each with their own acoustical envelope and dramatic
architectural shell. Leading architect, Moshe Safdie of Safdie Architects
collaborated with Richard Pilbrow of Theatre Projects Consultants and
Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics America on the design of both halls,
which share backstage facilities, including dressing accommodations for over
Contracting Inc. of Kansas City worked with Georgia-Pacific Gypsum products
and Radius Track, the world’s premier provider of curved structural framing
and 3D modeling for curved surfaces to make this complex structure a
The main challenge of building two separate facilities housed within the
same structure was building both isolated spaces before the steel dome was
erected. The multi-layered exterior shell of the Kauffman Center is not just
aesthetically pleasing – it was built for acoustical performance. Due to the
precision and technical nature of the building, work began on the two
performance spaces that are enclosed within the structure prior to the
assembly of the “bumps” – a series of acoustically specific, multi-radiused
bulges in the performing arts center wall which solve some very challenging
Performance Contracting knew Georgia-Pacific Gypsum products would fit the
bill for such a demanding assignment. “Since we started building the
interior spaces before the exterior shell was built, we needed a product
that could withstand the elements in order to stay on schedule for the
September 2011 target opening date,” said Ryan Crist, LEED AP, Project
Engineer, Performance Contracting.
Gypsum’s DensArmor Plus® High-Performance Interior Panels were chosen for
the interior walls not only for their durability and strength, but also
because of their ability to be installed prior to the building being dried
in. This proved beneficial during scheduling, as workers were able to
install walls without having to fear weather exposure. Georgia-Pacific
Gypsum offers a 12-month weather exposure limited warranty against
delamination and deterioration resulting from exposure to normal weather
conditions, which means DensArmor Plus panels can be hung before installing
doors and windows.
Georgia-Pacific Gypsum’s DensGlass® Sheathing was also selected. Beyond its
typical use as a permanent gypsum building component, the building team also
used it to make temporary partitions to protect the performance halls prior
to the erection of the steel shell. PCI’s distributor, Rew Materials,
recommended DensGlass Sheathing for this because the product’s fiberglass
mats and moisture-resistant core help reduce the effects of surface water
exposure while providing resistance to mold growth.
Track, provided all the 3D modeling, light gauge steel framing design and
fabrication for the project. In the past, the “bumps” would have been framed
with a “close enough” mentality and would have visually performed to that
level. Today, with the extremely sophisticated acoustical engineering
solutions that are applied to performing arts centers of this caliber,
“close enough” wasn’t going to cut it.
Radius Track designed a precise, consistent framing solution using straight
and curved steel studs and track along with laser-cut steel shapes for the
small bumps. While normal stud spacing is 16-inch on center, Radius Track
devised a way to create rib frames at 36-inch on center and bridged them
with lighter gauge hat channels that could flex with the room’s geometry.
“This approach not only solved a perplexing detail, but raised the bar by
creating an ingeniously simple solution which saved significant time and
material with impeccable results, says Radius Track CEO Chuck Mears, AIA.
Fifty-seven of these frames were produced offsite in controlled shop
environments to meet the exacting standards.
Radius Track modeled all the ceilings in the Concert Hall and Proscenium
Theater, the balcony facing reflector walls and the donor’s area ceiling
using 3D computer technology. BIM (Building Information Modeling) pulls the
project team together earlier in the process of design and brings them into
close communication so that coordination of systems and specific locations
of elements can be worked out prior to material being fabricated. Clashes
are resolved in the 3D model, so when the pieces are delivered to the
jobsite they can be installed with out problems. “With Radius Track we were
able to get it right the first time thus saving both time and money” said
was also used for the undulating ceiling designs. With the help of partner
structural engineers, Radius Track was able to successfully handle the
weight of 25-pound acoustical plaster, attached equipment and other loads.
With a solution that extended the spacing of stud members and utilized hat
channels half the size of normal framing, Radius Track solved a series of
acoustically specific profiles with exacting proficiency. Radius Track was
able to significantly lower the per-square-foot weight of framing, resulting
in measurable cost and labor savings.
A project of this scope also needed to stand up to high volume traffic that
would come. DensShield® Tile Backer by Georgia- Pacific Gypsum was specified
by the architect as a must-have product. Performance Contracting installed
over 20,000 square feet of DensShield Tile Backer in the Center. DensShield
panels incorporate fiberglass mats and a moisture-resistant core and are
lighter and easier to install than cement tile backers.
In addition to DensArmor Plus and DensShield Tile Backer, Performance
Contracting also installed 90,000 square feet of DensGlass® Shaftliner.
Georgia-Pacific Gypsum’s DensGlass® Shaftliner is a component for gypsum
board shaftwall, stairwell and area separation/firewall systems when a fire
rating is required. DensGlass Shaftliner incorporates a moisture- and
mold-resistant, noncombustible gypsum core with fiberglass mats to resist
exposure to the elements during the early stages of the construction.
“From scheduling benefits to easy-to-install products, Georgia-Pacific
Gypsum’s Dens® range of products were a critical element in order to
successfully complete this project,” said Ryan Crist of Performance
Contacting. “We’re incredibly happy with the results Georgia-Pacific Gypsum
products have helped us achieve.” Todd Kuykendall, director of Product
Management for Georgia-Pacific Gypsum, says the company is pleased with the
opportunity to have been included in a project with such significance to
both performing arts and architecture. “Georgia-Pacific Gypsum products have
a long history in commercial construction projects across the country,” said
Kuykendall. “We are proud to have several products featured in this
impressive addition to the Kansas City skyline.”
“Working with outstanding products from Georgia-Pacific and the technology
advanced team from Radius Track enabled this job to have outstanding
results. It is a beautiful project and one we are all proud of,” said Crist.
The Kauffman Center provides performance homes for three of Kansas City’s
premier performing arts organizations and keeps them unified under one roof.
The Kauffman Center’s resident companies include the Kansas City Ballet, the
Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Symphony.