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Four Major Buildings by Architect Moshe Safdie to Open During the Fall 2011
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, MO, view from northeast. Designed by Moshe Safdie. Photo: Tim Hursley.

BOSTON, MA.- Four major projects designed by the architect and planner Moshe Safdie—including a performing arts center, a headquarters for a federal institute, and two museums—will be completed and open to the public within the span of two months this fall.

In keeping with a philosophical approach that Safdie has applied around the world for more than four decades, the design of each of these new structures is responsive to local historic, cultural, and environmental contexts and grows out of a vision of the way it can affect the lives of the individuals for whom the buildings and public spaces are created: The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is built on an pivotal site facing downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and contains two distinct halls connected by an expansive porch and glass structure; the United States Institute of Peace, located on the northwest corner of the National Mall in Washington, DC, supports a critical mission of international conflict management; the Khalsa Heritage Centre, in the holy town of Anandpur Sahib, celebrates 500 years of Sikh culture; and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, is nestled in a ravine, providing a harmonious experience of art and nature.

“The process for designing each of these buildings has been an exploration of the particular, which is so central to creating a structure that fits with its singular location and program,” said Moshe Safdie. “Each project has its own distinct character, containing within itself the heart of a community, and naturally becoming part of the cultural and social fabric of the place.”

These four new buildings are described in more detail below, in the order they will open. Other Safdie projects under construction include an addition to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles; the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel, in Jerusalem; Golden Dream Bay, in Qinhuangdao, China; Parkside Residential Development, in Toronto; Tata Company Residential Development, in Bangalore and Mumbai, India, and Bishan Central Residential Development, in Singapore.

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City (September 16)
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, a crowning achievement of the Kansas City revitalization effort, connects the high-rise urban core of downtown, the arts district, and the new entertainment district and serves as cultural linchpin to the area. The design of the Kauffman Center was precipitated by the selection of its location on an escarpment facing the downtown, which affords a 180-degree view of the horizon, and the decision to build two distinct halls for music, opera, theater, and dance. The state-of-the-art , 285,000-square-foot institution will advance the role of the arts as a catalyst for social, educational, and economic vitality of the city and the region.

An articulated shell distinguishes each dedicated hall—Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall—and a glass enclosure defines the center’s shared public spaces, a series of interior piazzas that provide sweeping views of Kansas City. The venues will share backstage facilities, including dressing accommodations for more than 250 performers, as well as 11 rehearsal and warm-up rooms. The Kauffman Center’s new five-acre park will be used for outdoor performances and as a public gathering space. The center has been designed so it can accommodate future expansion along the east side of the building.

The north elevation of the building, which faces the downtown, features a series of arched walls sheathed in stainless steel that rise from the ground like a wave. From their crest a curved glass roof sweeps down toward the low-rise Crossroads neighborhood to the south and cascades into a 65-foot-high by 330-foot-wide glass wall, which provides the Kauffman Center’s Brandmeyer Great Hall with panoramic views of Kansas City. Anchored by 27 high-tension steel cables, this dramatic glass façade and roof are reminiscent of a stringed instrument.

Evolving the traditional horseshoe European opera house, the 1,800-seat Muriel Kauffman Theater will host performances by dance and theatrical groups from around the world and will be the performance home of the Kansas City Ballet and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. The seating configuration, which locates audiences directly facing the stage, brings viewers closer to the performers than in a traditional auditorium-style proscenium venue. The design of the theater has been fine-tuned for optimal performance by the acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics America, who worked with Safdie to evolve the acoustic strategy for the resident companies. This will provide dramatically enhanced performance capabilities, and a flexible proscenium stage opening will make the stage tremendously adaptable, allowing for both intimate and larger-scale productions.

The 1,600-seat Helzberg Hall will host local, national, and international music performances of all genres and be the new home of the Kansas City Symphony. The concert hall has a vineyard-style seating configuration. The stage extends approximately one-third of the distance into the hall, placing 40 percent of the seats alongside or behind the orchestra. This creates an intimate and immersive experience for both artists and audiences and enhances the sense of a shared musical experience. The visual centerpiece of Helzberg Hall will be a commissioned custom-designed Casavant Frères pipe organ, which will be one of the finest concert hall organs in the country.

United States Institute of Peace, Washington (Dedication: Fall 2011)
Located at the corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, the headquarters for the United States Institute of Peace occupies the northwest corner of the National Mall, in sight of the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II, Korean war, and Vietnam Veterans memorials. Offering a dialogue with the capital’s most powerful monuments, this new building is a dynamic symbol for America’s commitment to work for peace. As the organization’s first permanent home, the headquarters building is specifically designed to support the critical mission of international conflict management by promoting interaction and a sense of community among those who use the building. The program includes administrative offices, research facilities including a library and an archive, a conference center, and an interactive educational center dedicated to the theme of peacemaking.

The building is organized around two atriums, one facing the Potomac River, the other the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial. The first atrium is the centerpiece for the spaces devoted to the organization’s work and research. The other atrium is focused on public programs and conferences. The roof of the building features a series of undulating, winglike elements constructed of steel frame and white translucent glass, brings diffused light to the interior during the day and glow gently from within at night .

Fronted by an open plaza and garden on the south side of the building, the public entrance at the corner of Constitution Avenue will lead visitors into an educational space and the Great Hall, enclosed by a 30-foot glass curtain wall that looks out onto the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial. The Great Hall, surrounded on the interior by three stories of windowed offices, allows the public to see activities taking place within the building. In addition, it serves as a public crossroads and meeting place, underscoring the notion of the institute as a community of participants. Construction on the building, which has a LEED Silver certification, was completed at the end of 2010, and institute staff began working in the building last March.

Khalsa Heritage Centre, Anandpur Sahib, India (Fall 2011)
The Khalsa Heritage Centre is a new museum of the Sikh people located in the holy town of Anandpur Sahib, near Chandigarh, the capital of the state of Punjab. The museum celebrates 500 years of Sikh history and the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa, the scriptures written by the tenth and last Sikh guru, Gobind Singh.

Deeply rooted in the surrounding landscape and the architectural qualities of Sikh and regional architecture, such as the historic Golden Temple and Gurdwara Keshgarh Sahib, and acknowledging the Sikhs’ history as celebrated warriors, Khalsa Heritage Centre seems to rise from nearby sand cliffs and is clad with sandstone, evoking the fortress cities of Rajasthan, Gwalior, and Punjab. The upwardly curving roofs of the museum’s towerlike galleries are covered in stainless steel, designed in counterpoint to the rich tradition of gold domes that crown sacred Sikh buildings.

The museum campus is composed of two functionally integrated sets of buildings. The western complex forms a gateway to the city of Anandpur Sahib. It houses galleries for changing exhibitions; a two-level research and reference library centered around a grand reading room that overlooks water gardens; a facility for storing rare archival materials, books, and journals as well as audiovisual resources; and a 400-seat auditorium for seminars and cultural events. A 540-foot bridge from the western complex crosses a seven-acre network of reflecting pools, providing access to the eastern complex, which houses permanent exhibition galleries that interpret 500 years of Sikh history.

Arranged in groups of five, the galleries reference the Five Virtues in Sikh religion. The symbolic themes of earth and sky, mass and lightness, and depth and ascension, are represented by the museum’s sandstone towers and reflective silver roofs, and are further echoed inside the museum’s galleries.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas (November 11)
Nestled in a ravine between two wooded hillsides, Crystal Bridges’ location inspired a design that allows for a simultaneous and harmonious experience of art and nature. The museum’s program includes diverse galleries, a curatorial wing, a library, educational spaces, a restaurant and a great hall and is made up of eight pavilions set about two ponds, created from manmade damming of the ravine. Three of the pavilions abut the ponds and are sited so that they retain the hillside. Two pavilions span the pond while acting both as dams and bridges. One pavilion--the great hall—is set as a peninsula, connected to the mainland by a curving series of galleries.

As visitors circulate from one pavilion to the next, views of the natural landscape permeate every room and gallery. Through glazed links that break up the interior spaces, the public is continuously reintroduced to the outside surroundings. Also interspersed between the pavilions are outdoor gathering spaces, including an entry courtyard, an amphitheater-like crescent garden overlooking the pond, a meadow extending southbound toward Crystal Springs, each framed with dramatic views of the scenic woods.

Crystal Bridges’ design not only provides a view into the surrounding landscapes, but also brings the natural textures and visual elements inward. The materials are from the region: building walls are architectural concrete with wood inlays, the roof is a system of laminated wood beams made of Arkansas white pine, and the vaulted and convex toroidal roofs clad with copper, which in time will develop a rich patina, appear as an extension of the surrounding flora. Walking trails and sculpture, including a site-specific work by James Turrell, will link the museum’s 120-acre park and gardens to downtown Bentonville.

The gallery designs capture the variety of artwork to be found in the museum’s permanent collection. Varying in size, scale, and lighting effect, the distinct spaces reflect the periods and styles captured in American art.

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