BNIM has revealed the artful possibilities of the parking structure through its work on the 10th and Wyandotte Garage, located in Kansas City’s urban core. The project is a collaboration with artist Andy Brayman, founder of The Matter Factory, an Independence, Missouri-based studio for ceramics artists who integrate digital modelling and fabrication processes into their practices.
The project brief called for a 300-stall structure to replace a crumbling parking deck on a prominent corner in Kansas City’s downtown business district, for use by employees of DST, a company whose growth in downtown Kansas City over the last few decades has greatly contributed to the area’s rejuvenation. The site is directly east of Crossroads Academy, a charter school that BNIM and MC Realty Group helped move into the neighborhood in 2012. Given this adjacency, as well as the site’s proximity to important Kansas City landmarks such as the Lyric Theater, along with a continually growing residential community inhabiting several turn-of-the-century office buildings nearby, it was imperative for the project to be a positive contribution to the neighborhood, despite its primary function as a vehicle storage facility.
Prior to the design and construction of the new 10th and Wyandotte Parking Garage, the existing structure was decrepit, with pieces collapsing on cars that parked there. The site topography made it difficult for the team to repurpose the existing garage or add retail on the ground floor in new construction. The new 10th and Wyandotte Parking Garage overcomes these obstacles by seamlessly integrating art to offer beautiful views to pedestrians, fulfilling the need for parking on this site, and taking advantage of the prominent location by establishing connections with the surrounding buildings, in the spirit of being a good neighbor in downtown Kansas City.
The garage uses all LED lights that are connected to motion sensors. During periods of no motion, the lights dim to 50 percent luminosity. When the sensors detect a person or car coming through, they brighten to 100 percent. This addresses pedestrian safety while also conserving energy. Currently, the garage has eight electric charging stations. This is expandable, with the option of adding more electric spaces in the future. The green space directly west of the garage contributes to stormwater management. Filled with native trees and grasses, the space captures additional water, on top of the water that falls onto the garage and is stored in an underground vault to prevent flash flooding and site runoff.
At first, the team composition for the 10th and Wyandotte Parking Garage seems unusual: the developer, MC Realty Group; the architect, BNIM; the contractor, Burns & McDonnell; the artist, Andy Brayman, and the charter school, Crossroads Academy. However, each entity has played a significant role in not only erecting another parking garage, but creating an asset in the urban core.
Typically, parking garages are not considered opportunities to integrate art. However, the team wanted change the way people approached parking garage design with the 10th and Wyandotte Garage. This resulted in a collaboration with local ceramic artist Andy Brayman on the design of the facades of the garage. Andy’s process and the tools he uses are incredibly aligned with the way that architects design; in fact, Andy uses much of the same computer software that architects use for their projects.
Because of the garage’s adjacency to Crossroads Academy, MC Realty and BNIM are partnering with the school to design the open green space adjacent to the garage. MC Realty is giving Crossroads Academy free reign to utilize the green space in whatever way would best fill the school’s needs, which includes a playground, garden, and outdoor classroom area.
Andy’s process in crafting the ceramic inserts was a thoughtful effort to make the garage beautiful from a distance and to the touch. Bringing an artist’s perspective to a parking garage at the very beginning of the design process is a shift in traditional thinking. As Andy said, “I love that the design and construction of something as big and utilitarian as a parking garage can share many of the goals and concerns of an artist.” BNIM provided the appropriate parameters for meeting code and building requirements, such as allowing air flow into the garage and ventilating the exhaust out of the garage. Using these guidelines, Andy created dimorphic, stretched out ovals that are integrated into the façade.
To give Crossroads Academy true control over the future of the green space, BNIM has been working with a group of students — initially during their 6th and 7th grade years, now into their 7th and 8th grade years — to design an outdoor play space and park that will function as an outdoor classroom and become a usable public space when school is not in session. The students have developed this space from the beginning, including brainstorming ideas and arrangements for activities and putting together a presentation comprised of a digital model and precedent images to apply for a grant.