Twelve years of planning and construction led to the opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in September 2011, a spectacular 438,500-square-foot steel, marble, and glass complex that creates a permanent home for three major arts organizations: the Kansas City Ballet, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Symphony.

Combining the needs of these three disparate companies in one venue required the design of two world-class performance halls: the 1,600-seat Helzberg Hall and the 1,800-seat Muriel Kauffman Theatre.

Helzberg Hall hosts a wide variety of guest artists and musical performances beyond the resident orchestra, so sound engineers required maximum flexibility to tune the hall for solo performances, small classical ensembles, jazz combos, and concerts involving the permanently installed Casavant Frères pipe organ. To provide exquisite acoustics, the concert hall contains a 99,570-lb acoustical canopy suspended 50’ above the stage. The stage itself extends one-third of the distance into the audience, placing 40 percent of the seats alongside or behind the orchestra. This creates an unusually immersive experience for the audience, while bringing all seats to within 100’ of the musicians onstage.

In an effort to anticipate every possible use of the hall and to future-proof it for many decades to come, the designers specified three half-ring risers that lift from the stage floor and create the optimal configuration of a full orchestra or choir. An additional lift creates a platform for the sound mixing equipment and technician, or lowers to allow space for additional seating. Two wagons complete this changeover capability: one for the sound mix and one with seating.

The ballet and opera will perform in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, an 1,800-seat proscenium house. The 5,000-square-foot stage features a 74’-tall fly tower, with the capacity to fly grand opera set pieces as large as 30’ tall, using a 70-lineset counterweight system. The rigging provides the capacity to add 20 more linesets as resident and touring productions might require.

A total of 28 variable acoustic banners on custom chain drivers give the Kauffman Theatre the ability to tune the hall for many different kinds of performances. The banners are stored behind the wall and lowered behind the seat backs as needed to optimize the acoustics. The banners can be repositioned using a SceneControl pendant provided by J. R. Clancy, Inc., which also controls the house curtain.

Two lifts with full seating wagons can extend the stage floor, provide more seating in the auditorium, or create two sizes of orchestra pits. Finally, the stage is equipped with a flexible proscenium opening, allowing the artistic staff to create a more intimate effect with a smaller opening, or broaden the proscenium for grand opera and major ballet performances.

Creative Team
Moshe Safdie, Architect
Nagata Acoustics, Acoustician
Theatre Projects, Theatre Consultants
J. E. Dunn Construction, General Contractor
J. R. Clancy, Inc., Rigging Manufacturer

99,570-lb acoustic canopy
7 10-ton chain motors
7 hoists (on top of the canopy)
3 motorized outriggers (lighting and speakers)
Skjonberg 48-channel motorized control system
Retractable roller banner system with 10 banners
5 1,000-lb cyclorama point hoists, 0-200 fpm
SceneControl e-control pendant
6 Gala riser lifts
2 wagons

70 counterweight linesets with loading gallery
Motorized house curtain 0-378 fpm
60,000-lb steel-framed Zetex fire curtain
29 variable acoustic banners
SceneControl pendant
2 Gala lifts with full seating wagons
1 sound cockpit lift