The building’s arms reach out, embracing the potential of Kansas City and its people. The gardens and grounds provide an accessible greenspace in the heart of the city. Open and welcoming, the Kauffman Foundation serves as a place of gathering and possibility.
In 1995, after a decade in leased office space at 4900 Oak Street, the Kauffman Foundation announced plans to build a permanent home on an undeveloped 37-acre tract owned by the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The groundbreaking ceremony for Kauffman Legacy Park was held along a gentle sweep of Brush Creek between Rockhill Road and Troost Avenue on March 6, 1997. In addition to an office building, the Foundation unveiled plans for a conference center, the Ewing and Muriel Memorial Garden, and the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Discovery Center to be located on the site.
Kallmann McKinnell & Woods Architects, a Boston-based firm known for creating prominent gathering places including Boston City Hall and the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia, was chosen for the project. KM&W set out to create a design that would capture the vision of the Kauffman Foundation.
Engaged and meticulous, the architects conducted interviews with Kauffman associates to understand the nature of the Foundation’s work and its culture "The three words we kept hearing were listening, excellence and community,” said Ted Szostkowski, the lead project architect. “It had to present itself as an institution that was about others. It wasn’t about featuring itself. It was about featuring what went on inside.”
In addition to Kauffman associates, neighbors and community members were asked about their hopes and expectations for the new campus. The low-slung profile of the building, unobtrusive lighting in the parking lot, and the effort to protect as many existing trees on the property as possible were all influenced by ideas and concerns expressed by the community. Developing the property became part of the city’s Brush Creek Redevelopment initiative.
The goal was to create a place that felt like home for both the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation. Windows represent transparency, a key aspect of the Foundation’s commitment to look outside and reinforce its willingness to allow the community to see in and connect with the Foundation. “It had to present itself as an institution that was about others.” said Szostkowski. “It wasn’t about featuring itself. It was about featuring what went on inside.”
A significant addition to Kansas City’s community life was the decision to devote nearly a third of the building to house a versatile gathering place for the community. Hoping to address the lack of suitable meeting space available to a wide range of nonprofit organizations, the Kauffman Conference Center would offer meeting rooms free of charge to eligible nonprofits.