The architect Moshe Safdie faced a long list of challenges constructing the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. In particular, the wall covering of the concert hall turned out to be difficult: 20 metres in height, a concave surface, acoustical neutrality, and a small freight elevator for the mounting parts. Stainless steel mesh of the type PC-Tigris by GKD - Gebr. Kufferath AG provided a solution. With 700 square metres of the mesh, installed as 101 single panels, the architect was able to implement his ambitious project.
The new performing arts centre is located between the historic warehouse district and the new entertainment district and accommodates theatre, ballet, opera and the symphony of Kansas City in two connected halls. The architecture is reminiscent of a shell. Towards the south, the open glass façade affords a spectacular 180° view of the prairie landscape on the horizon. At the same time, the activities within the concert halls are on display thereby integrating the urban community.
The 1,600 seats of the concert hall, the Helzberg Hall, are arranged around the stage placing the emphasis on the musician in the centre of the hall. However, the musical heart of the site is an artistical pipe organ reaching towards the ceiling which was designed by Casavant Frères, the oldest manufacturer of pipe organs in North America. Seven bays, each 20 metres in height and of a concave shape which taper from five metres in width at the bottom to three metres at the top, continue this effect. The material used for their covering had to be flexible, acoustically neutral and – in view of the small freight elevator – easy to move in single parts. GKD suggested a system of stackable, framed mesh panels. They have a height of two metres and are slightly tapered. In order to prevent the mounted panels from vibrating and producing distracting noises when confronted with high-intensity sound waves, the frames were isolated from each other with rubber knobs. For an exact vertical alignment of the metal mesh panels, GKD’s sophisticated weaving technology with tight manufacturing tolerances proved itself excellent. In sum, because GKD was able to solve several major problems with its architectural mesh they were awarded the project.