Richard Bolling Federal Building Escalator/Art Wall

Submitted by Patrick Bayer

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Client: U.S. General Services Administration

Location: Kansas City, MO, United States

Completion date: 2013

Artwork budget: $300,000

Project Team

Architect

Kristine A. Sutherlin, Katie L. Vossman

Helix Architecture + Design

Architect

Dale R. Duncan, Michael J. Heule

Helix Architecture + Design

Interior Designer

Patrick Bayer

Helix Architecture + Design

Artist

Anne Lindberg

Industry Resource

Mark Toth

Skyline Design Architectural Glass

Overview

As part of the modernization of the Richard Bolling Federal Building, Helix Architecture Design collaborated with local artist Anne Lindberg to re-imagine the circulation core between the Ground Floor and Third Floor. The re-design of this escalator system serves to complement the existing lobby areas on each floor, creating a place to linger and a vertical connection between these spaces. Taking inspiration from the essential architectural qualities of the original building design, the architectural qualities of the modernized areas, human qualities of behavior, and the artistic concept of a “wall of curtains,” the artwork serves to activate this space.

Goals

In the words of Anne Lindberg, the artwork serves to, “reinforce the Cherry Street axis of the building, inform people of ways to get from one floor to the next, activate the sense of movement, and continue a tradition in the building of integrating artwork into the walls of the architecture.”

The location of this feature, being open to both building occupants and public visitors, makes it immensely important to the way in which the building is experienced as a whole. The artwork is visible to many areas on each floor and becomes a powerful tool for wayfinding, which was a specific challenge for the renovation and modernization of this 18-story office building. The artwork develops and enlivens the cultural identity of the place at the scale of the building and within the larger context of the urban fabric.

Process

As part of the renovation, three artists were chosen through the Federal Art in Architecture Program to collaborate with the designers of the space and create site responsive artwork for the building. The designers initially met with the artists and reviewed the design ideas for the renovation. In this particular location, the designers wanted to create a special wall feature alongside an existing bank of escalators that penetrate through several floors. The escalators are totally interior to the building, have no views to the exterior, and were not a particularly pleasant way to travel from floor to floor. This particular artist grabbed ahold of the designers’ desire to create a special feature here and proposed a colorful “curtain wall” that extends up through four floors of the building. Excited about the idea, the designers and artist worked closely together to design the stainless steel mounting system and the lighting of the piece, installing mockups and testing multiple lighting options. The final result totally transforms the experience of using the escalators and makes for a delightful way to move through the space.