Client: Kansas City International Airport
Location: Kansas City, MO, United States
Completion date: 2023
Nancy Hou and Josh de Sousa
Inside a stairway, within a parking garage, surrounded by an airport, movement is everywhere. Zooming further out, the context expands and we take in Kansas City, a cultural hotbed and fountain of musical innovation.
“Flights” celebrates the improvisational character of Kansas City jazz and the aerodynamic forms that enable aviation. Featuring a variety of widths and palettes, the project’s streamlined fins evoke the qualities of feathers and airfoils. Running parallel to the trajectory of the switchback stairways, the fins weave together into a syncopated rhythm, punctuated by unique apertures and moments of contrast that invite exploration and discovery. Beyond the nuanced moments and details that one encounters directly while passing through the stairway, Flights’ broad and generous scale creates a dramatic visual impact when observed from a distance, particularly when illuminated at night.
Just as melodies are composed of multiple notes, and communities are defined by the people who live in them, Flights is a collection of individual parts that gains meaning and strength when joined together to build a greater whole.
The project is located within a pair of stairwells that provide access to a seven-story parking structure facing the main entrance of the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport. The weight of the project was restricted to 500lb. Simultaneously, it was critical to maximize the visual impact of the sculpture, given that it is partially obscured by stairways and a reflective glass curtain wall. This drove the design process and led to a novel material and structural strategy. Within each stairwell, 160 aluminum composite panels piece together to form a vibrant and welcoming tapestry that is over 12ft wide and 75ft tall. The color transition at each stairway is unique, distinguishing each half of the diptych while also providing a unique character to an otherwise identical set of stairwells.