Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kauffman Center For The Performing Arts - March 13, 2012

Sigrid and I toured the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts last week.  We have been intrigued by the building since it was first announced in the newspaper.  Free tours are given on Mondays and Tuesdays every week.  Since Sigrid and I weren't with a larger group, they just added us to a group of elementary school teachers already scheduled for the tour.

This is one fabulous building.  As you walk around it, the building takes on a new personality with nearly every step.  This is true for the exterior as well as the interior.  This is the inaugural year for the building designed by internationally renown architect Moshe Safdie.  The photo below is of the south side of the building.

Next door to the Center, is the Webster House, a renovated 1885 elementary school house.  The House now has a really nice restaurant and fine antiques for sale.

Just across the freeway, you can see the "Sky Station" metal sculptures sitting atop the support pylons for Bartle Hall.  The pylons are 335 feet tall and the "art deco" sculptures are about 25 feet in diameter and 25 feet tall.

A worker walks near the top of the south facing glass wall of the Center.

A view from the southeast corner.  The Center has about 285,000 square feet of interior space sitting on 15 acres of prime downtown land.  Money for the construction of the Center came from private donations almost exclusively.  The primary benefactors were the Kauffman and Helzberg families.  The city provided the funds for the 1,000 car underground parking garage which they operate.

The building is just as spectacular on the inside as it is outside.  Walls and structures are all white with bright red and blue carpets for contrast.

 Our tour group.  Some of the teachers were evaluating the tour for a future visit with their students.

 Sigrid loved it!

 Lots of eye candy for an engineer.

A couple of guys were on the roof - glass panels doing maintenance.  One of them had a caulking gun so I know what he was doing.  I imagine that caulking on the structure like this is a regular activity.

This is the Helzberg Hall.  It was designed primarily for musical performances of all kinds.  The Hall has one of the largest and nicest pipe organs in the world.  We hope to come back when the have an organ recital some day.  The Hall seats 1,600 and is the home of the KC Symphony.  The geometry of the Hall can be changed for each different type of show and the acoustics can also be fine tuned for best sound.  The stage can accommodate someone like James Taylor sitting on a stool by himself up to a full symphony complete with large choir.  No matter how it is set up, it has an intimate feel to it.  No seat in the Hall is more than 100 feet from the stage.  To accomplish this, they use a "vineyard style" of seating which goes vertical, like grape vines on a steep hillside, rather than more horizontal seating.

A closer view of the organ.  Casavant Freres, a Canadian company, custom built the pipe organ for the Center.  This organ has 5,548 pipes and is just slightly smaller than the organ in the Community of Christ Temple in Independence.  That organ is ranked at #73 in the world size wise so the Center's organ is most likely in the top 100 in the world.

The building is just full of interesting geometric architecture.

This is the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Theatre.  The theatre is home to the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.  The theater seats 1,800 people in the same kind of "vineyard" seating as the Helzberg Hall.  The glowing panels on the balconies are translucent panels with LED lighting behind.  The plan was to evoke a feeling of being in an old European Opera House.....very neat.

The stage has 5,000 square feet of space that can be configured to match the show being presented.  The 30 foot high opening allows for very grand productions.  The stage area was designed to accommodate any show that can be imagined.  The orchestra pit can handle 95 musicians.

Sigrid and I plan to attend a number of show in the future.  The National Geographic photography lecture series is currently in progress.  They also have a fun looking "Oldies" show coming up that we might see.

Taking the tour is as easy as calling and asking to be put on a list and it is free.  We recommend it highly.

Friday, March 16, 2012

National Airline History Museum - Power Partners - March 15, 2012

Yesterday, Sigrid and I joined our Power Partner Retirement Club friends on a tour of the Kansas City National Airline History Museum.  The museum is located at the Downtown Airport (Municipal Airport) in Kansas City.  The museum is celebrating its 25th year of operation.  They started with just one plane, a Lockheed Constellation, also affectionately known as a "Connie".  The original name of the museum was "Save a Connie".  They have now added a several more planes to the collection.  I am an old Aerospace Engineer who still loves to see the old as well as the new planes when on display.

 The tail end of a Lockheed L-1011.  I flew on an L-1011 on a trip to Hawaii in 1985.

 The above photo as well as the two below were part of a nice video presentation tracing the history of the airline industry.

 We watched the video from nicely refurbished airline passenger seats.

From the video, we went to a collection of airline documents, photos, uniforms, and other items used in the industry.

 We then moved to the hanger where all the aircraft are displayed.

 The pride and joy of the museum....a flyable Lockheed Constellation "Super G".

The above photo is of the Martin 404 which was used for passenger service by TWA.  This is a fairly rare airplane since just over 100 were ever manufacture.  Most of these were used by TWA.  Below is the tail of the Connie.  It is wide accepted that the Connie was a landmark in the aircraft industry because of its superior range, speed, and other advanced features.  On top of all that, many thought that it was one of the "sexiest" aerodynamic designs of all time.  The three vertical stabilizers at the tail of the plane were part of its beauty.  When I was a child,  the family used to park at the end of the runway on Lou Holland Drive and watch the planes land.  They would just skim over the top of the Missouri River levee and our heads.  I watched more than one Connie land.

The TWA Moonliner II rock ship.....used for PR and displayed for years at the Kansas City TWA training facility.

A Douglas DC-3....a workhorse for both the military and the passenger industry all over the world.  The propeller driven equivalent of the Boeing 737.  I rode on a DC-3 on a flight from Albany, Georgia to Atlanta in 1971.  I had a seat over the wing.  I watched as oil oozed from the seams in the metal covering the wing and screws holding the wing parts together slowly vibrating themselves out of their holes.  What a thrill.  We never got very high in altitude so I could really see the Georgia landscape and people on the ground very well....a flight to remember.

After the tour, we all gathered at Hickoks for lunch in the City Market area.

A great day.  I love the smell of old planes and jet fuel in the mornings.