The Warehouse at KCAI

Posted on January 18th, 2013 at 10:24 am by

el dorado Design/Build’s first two higher education projects are complete, both at the Kansas City Art Institute. We wrapped up The Warehouse in November, and the KCAI Fiber students wasted no time filling the building with work for their end of semester show.

Two blocks down the street, the Foundations Building just passed final inspection. No doubt the first year students will give it the same treatment when spring classes begin later this month.

Foundations students in Caleb Taylor's studio

Foundations students in Caleb Taylor’s studio

The Warehouse is located in a lively part of town just off the Main Street corridor, where century-old homes of decent city dwellers meet a sea of traffic, galleries, university buidings, and impassioned art students.



A waterjet-cut steel sign marks the entry to The Warehouse, which takes its name from a past life as a data storage warehouse. More than just a parking lot, the asphalt-covered entry is a public gathering place shared with KCAI’s student gallery, the H&R Block Artspace. Eventually the courtyard will be greened-up with areas of trees and plantings.



The concrete masonry building is intentionally neutral, a few complementary shades of gray lighter than the Artspace next door. Recognizing the need for natural light, we left all of the original openings, including a loading dock with an overhead door, four small windows and two large windows. We punched two new entryways in the masonry block walls.


The Warehouse’s nearly square floor plan is divided into five perimeter studios and two central “classrooms” (really open pin-up spaces), along with some smaller service rooms, offices and computer labs.

A datum line runs throughout the building, 12′-5 1/4″ high. That’s the height of one standard Micor tackable panel resting on a piece of wood trim. Everything above the datum line is painted dark grey. High-bay lights stand out against the blackened ceiling and ductwork, industrial stars in a wintery sky.

The walls below the datum line are KCAI White, each one a pin-up space. They’re backed by OSB plywood to withstand the abuse of students hanging large textiles and artwork in every media imaginable.


In the main classroom areas, student work is lit by gallery-quality track lighting and wall-mounted linear fluorescents. Door openings are accented in bright punches color for intuitive and direct wayfinding.


The furniture in The Warehouse was built by our KSU summer graduate studio out of lumber and plywood salvaged from the building’s old mezzanine. It was swiftly reassembled and repurposed by each the Fiber students and faculty as they saw fit to meet their own needs.



Most of the building is below grade. This provides a consistent level of thermal comfort but poses a lighting challenge. To bring natural light into the studios, we inserted sonotube skylights into the metal roof deck. We also did this because we really enjoy using a keynote called “Tubular Daylighting Device.”


Zeke Henry and Chris Burk, two graduates of the Kansas City Art Institute, were the site supervisors in our Design/Build effort. They put the same craft and care into the construction as they would any of their old KCAI projects.


Now The Warehouse is an empty vessel, ready to receive an onslaught of new materials and colors–technologically advanced textiles, brilliantly dyed fabrics, sewn costumes, woven garments–tactile, physical objects, all the product of the Fiber students’ ongoing explorations into the process of making. The Foundations building is primped and ready to greet a new wave of KCAI students as they embark on their own journey of making.