The Center is a new facility in the heart of Kansas City’s gentrifying Westside Neighborhood. It is Kansas City’s oldest social service agency, dedicated to individual and family well-being through social services, behavior health counseling and the arts. This project serves primarily Hispanic and Latinx communities. The center houses the client’s cultural programming, including arts education, public programming, and curation of the Hand-in-Hand Folk Art collection.
Due to demographic shifts and gentrification pressures, most of Mattie Rhodes' service facilities have been relocated to Kansas City’s Northeast neighborhood. It was important to them to not only maintain a foothold in the Westside of the city, but to make a strong visual statement of commitment and presence with this project. They frequently host events for the neighborhood highlighting community members and their art.
The client acquired the last commercially zoned property in the neighborhood, then immediately discovered that the property suffered serious environmental contamination. As the diagrams in the presentation demonstrate, the site design is a reaction to the need to excavate a specific part of the ground for abatement. The process began with removal of the contaiminated soil and then the shell was developed and walls extended for access and security.
The architectural form and color are simple gestures towards creating presence. The volume allows generous display of artwork and facilitates future expansion by adding a second floor. Apertures are limited and carefully placed. A custom trellis of steel and wood (designed and built by the architects) expands program space outside and shields the large gallery window wall from direct sunlight. “A lot of time and energy was spent creating this new space,” said Jenny Mendez, the center’s cultural arts director, “and I was very happy to be part of it — figuring out what the space could be, and how we could make it ours, for everyone — for our community, the artists, and our students.”
“We opened our gallery 24 years ago with the idea that we would be a venue for Hispanic or Latino artists to exhibit their work and support them in any way we can in our own space,” said Jenny Mendez, the center’s cultural arts director. “We created a place for community for families and many students through those years. But we have a new building, a new space that is truly ours and is truly a dream come true."
Lone Oaks Farm. Middleton, TN. (Masterplan (with Nelson Byrd Woltz), Hunter Education Pavilion, STEM Education Facility, 4H Cabins). 2016-present.
Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award, AIA Central States Region Design Award (Hunter Education Facility, 2022); AIA Kansas City Design Excellence Award, Project of the Year (Hunter Education Facility, 2021); Society for College & University Planning Excellence in Planning Special Citation, ASLA Virginia Award (Master Plan, 2018)
Mattie Rhodes Cultural Arts Center. Kansas City, MO. 2017-2022.
AIA Kansas City Design Excellence Award (2022)
Crossroads Hotel. Kansas City, MO. 2015-2018.
AIA Kansas City Design Excellence Award (2019)
Crystal Bridges of American Art, North Trail Biological Pavilion & Infrastructure Enhancements. Bentonville, AR. 2015-2017.
Interior Design Best of Year Finalist, AIA Kansas City Design Excellence Award, AIA Central States Region Design Award (2018)