Archive for Planning & Master Plan

Hot Rods and K/O Architects

Whoa, This is a Car Lovers Dream Come True!

Our latest post features a few snapshots taken from a recent photo shoot at one of our recently completed projects in the Des Moines, Iowa area. This is a bit more than your third car garage addition we typically design at K/O Architects. Conceptually, this project started out as a home for six, then eight vehicles and grew from there. The completed project is now home to eleven cars and four motorcycles – all beautifully maintained and/or restored (there is even room for a few more).

The finish level of this private garage is nicer than most new car showrooms!

Out of respect for privacy, we purposefully are not showing any pictures of the exterior or divulging the name of the owner.

The original idea was to have four cars per side with 20 feet between each to prevent door dings.

If you love mechanical things as much as we do you will no doubt love this garage! Not only is it finely crafted, but it surpasses the fit and finish of most high end spas. The full bar/kitchen is always well stocked and the patio furniture sits ready just outside the full floor to ceiling glass entry wall. Other amenities include being fully wired for video and sound throughout, with a LED big screen in every room (or even more than one screen sometimes); you can even hear music coming from the indoor/outdoor speaker system as you walk around the exterior.

Notice the double curved wood ceiling and custom copper HVAC grilles and diffusers!

You can watch the latest episode of American Chopper or just hang out in the upstairs loft. The room also has a connected luxury bath so you can take a quick shower after working all day under the hood.

The full bar and nearby patio allows for entertaining and relaxing!

This is by far one of the coolest projects we have worked on in recent years. Not to be left out, the tool room rivals the cleanliness of any kitchen in a five star restaurant. Even the butcher block top on the island (occasionally used to dismantle things) is nicer than that in most homes. We bet they could easily whip up a couple of “gourmet” engines in this room!

The Snap-On tool chest fits right in with the wood cabinets of this Tool Room!

Sustainable Architecture and K/O – Earth Day 2012!

Celebrate Earth Day 2012 – Let Us Plant a Tree for You!

We had such a sucessful time with this campaign last year we’re going to do it again this year! Join us by celebrating Earth Day (officially April 22, 2012) today and throughout next week! For every new friend, like, follow, etc. we get over the next week on any of our social media sites, we will plant a tree in your honor. That’s right; K/O Architects will purchase a tree through the Arbor Day Foundation Corporate Partnership Program. The tree will be planted in a North American forest in our name but in your honor. The Arbor Day Foundation is considered among one of the top 25 Charities Nationally.

We could not think of a better way to celebrate our planet and show our appreciation to You – our friend, than by simply planting a tree. Our nation’s forests provide wood, habitat, clean air, and drinking water for millions of us and millions of more wildlife. Your tree will help preserve these precious resources for this and many generations to come!

As Michael Huber Architects ( pointed out last year – Join the K/O Army!

K/O Travelogue – Architecture and Planning

Riding Heard – Bricktown Riverwalk

From the “We get to work in the best places” annals – Oklahoma City Chapter.

On a recent trip to good old Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as Fairground Architects we were impressed, to say the least! I guess we have not been to Oklahoma City in a long time (probably about 10+ years). We’re glad to be back!

That town has grown up! They have baseball, basketball, hockey, great college sports – you name it. And man do they have art and architecture. If you want cool modern architecture look up the Chesapeake Boathouse by Rand Elliot. Cool is an understatement in fact check out his website, as his aesthetic pretty much defines contextual Midwest place making at its highest level (ok, Oklahoma is not technically in the Midwest, but it’s only one state off, and they basically have the same value structure as us Midwesterners – so for this blog we’ll go with that). We were also impressed by the art scene as well, and specifically one larger than life sculpture titled “Land Rush” located in “Bricktown”.

Once a busy warehouse district, Bricktown is Oklahoma City’s hottest entertainment and dining area, with numerous restaurants, nightclubs, and shops. Other attractions include the Bricktown Ballpark, (home to the Oklahoma RedHawks Triple AAA baseball team), horse-drawn carriage rides, the Spirit of Oklahoma Trolley, and water taxi boat tours on the Bricktown Canal.

Bricktown brims with public art including sculpture, murals and even performance art. In celebration of the historic land rush of 1889 and in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of statehood, renowned sculptor Paul Moore created a dynamic outdoor public art piece that reenacts the land run that opened Oklahoma for settlement. Moore’s “two times” life size sculptures commemorate the spirit and determination of those men and women who rode in Oklahoma’s five land runs. The work of art is one of the world’s largest bronze sculptures. The installation includes 38 people, 34 horses, 3 wagons, and many other equally impressive bronze creations.

History: The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 was the first land run into the “Unassigned Lands” and included all or part of the 2005 modern day Oklahoma counties – Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Logan, Oklahoma, and Payne. The land run started at high noon on April 22, 1889, with an estimated 50,000 people lined up for their piece of the available …get this, two million acres! By the end of the day (April 22, 1889), both Oklahoma City and Guthrie had established cities of around 10,000 people in literally half a day.

As Harper’s Weekly put it: At twelve o’clock on Monday, April 22d, the resident population of Guthrie was nothing; before sundown it was at least ten thousand. In that time streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps taken toward the formation of a municipal government.”

Many settlers immediately started improving their new land or stood in line waiting to file their claim. By the second week, schools had opened and were being taught by volunteers until regular school districts could be established. Within one month, Oklahoma City had five banks and six newspapers.

Interesting Fact: A number of the individuals who participated in the run entered early and hid out until the legal time of entry to lay quick claim to some of the most choice homesteads. These people came to be identified as “sooners.” This led to hundreds of legal contests that arose and were decided first at local land offices and eventually by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Arguments included what constituted the “legal time of entry”. This is also what you’re known as if you’re an attendee or alum from the University of Oklahoma – given the history, I’m not sure I would want to be known as a Sooner (we can poke fun, we’re all Iowa State University graduates up here, that’s another Blog entry someday).

Learning From Las Vegas – Fairs, Entertainment and Other Thoughts

Entertainment Architecture – “In Your Face Architecture”

We just finished exhibiting at the 2011 IAFE (International Association of Fairs and Exhibitions) Conference in Las Vegas. The conference was held in and around the Great Ballroom at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Convention and Trade Show held in Las Vegas each year, is the largest event serving fairs, shows,
exhibitions, and expositions. As a Fairground Architect and Fairground Master Planner we had the benefit of networking and learning from top industry folks and other fair professionals during the intensive four days of workshops, special seminars, round table discussions, and social events. The Trade Show allows us to showcase our firm while serving as a one-stop shop for all things fair. This year we got to show off our new designs for a Horse Barn, Equestrian Facility, Livestock Barn, Equine Arena, Exhibition Building, and a a few Fairground Master Plans.

As an architect of mass entertainment facilities there could not be a more perfect setting than to hold a show in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is everything entertainment design aspires to be – in your face, cutting edge, modern, and definitely Disneyesque. This recent visit allowed us to tour the recently completed (opened about a year ago) CityCenter. The below entry summarizes our thoughts.

The blog entry below uses several excerpts and references from the October 2010 article “What Happens in Vegas” by Paul Goldberger – originally published in the New Yorker

We all know that Las Vegas has been expanding since 2005, when Steve Wynn started the latest and largest building-boom Vegas has ever seen. High-rise, condo, hotel, mixed-use, adaptive-reuse and other projects in the Las Vegas area are in various stages of planning, development and construction.

Image of the CityCenter at night from the website

For several years now, there has been talk about whether Las Vegas could handle what in any other city might be referred to as real architecture. In 2004, when the hotel company MGM Mirage (now known as MGM Resorts International) was looking for a way of filling in a sixty-six-acre site between two of its properties on the west side of the Strip (the Bellagio and the Monte Carlo), it hit on the idea of turning the plot into a showcase for modern architecture.

The Las Vegas Strip is constantly debuting new projects, boasting the latest in new urban architecture, design and technology. LEED certified “Green” buildings are making an entrance and many world-famous architects (starchitects) stepped up to the plate to create the critically acclaimed CityCenter, the biggest construction project in the history of Las Vegas. It has three hotels, two condominium towers, a shopping mall, a convention center, a couple of dozen restaurants, a private monorail, and a casino. There was to have been a fourth hotel, whose opening has been delayed indefinitely. But even without it the project contains nearly eighteen million square feet of space, the equivalent of roughly six Empire State Buildings. In an effort to counterpoint Las Vegas kitschiness the rolodex of who’s who in architecture was called into action. The result is a community of glittering starchitect ambition. There are major buildings by Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Kohn Pedersen Fox, and Norman Foster; and interiors by Peter Marino, Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis, Bentel and Bentel, and AvroKO (no relation to our firm). There are also prominent sculptures by Maya Lin, Nancy Rubins, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

If Las Vegas wants to be rescued from kitsch, that remains to be seen. CityCenter has struggled in the year since it opened. But it’s been clear for a while that Las Vegas has been running out of themes. The trouble is that its effects rely entirely on dazzlement, an over-the-top gigantism that gets old fast. As Las Vegas had grown—until the recession, its expansion had helped make Nevada the fastest-growing state in the nation—the city has started to feel a little uncomfortable about its reputation as a place where developers spend billions of dollars on funny buildings.

Whether or not the buildings themselves succeed in striking a blow against Vegas kitsch, CityCenter certainly fails to live up to the claim implicit in its name—the hope that it is going to give Las Vegas, the place of ultimate sprawl, a genuine urban focus. As urban planning, it doesn’t go much farther than Caesars Palace. CityCenter is laid out not for pedestrians but as a machine for moving vast numbers of cars efficiently. There are wide ramps coming off the Las Vegas Strip, auto turnarounds, and porte cochères—all good for traffic flow but hardly what you would call urban open space. There has been an attempt to tuck the site’s enormous garages out of sight—employee cars alone number in the thousands—but they are no less visible than at any number of the Strip’s other big hotels. Like its competitors, CityCenter has no real streets. You can glide over the project on a monorail, but there is no pleasant place to walk, except inside the buildings.

Even though there is more perceived density to CityCenter (there really is no more than anywhere else on the strip), and more sophistication to its architecture, it doesn’t feel urban. Its planners have tried to cram more square footage into a tighter space than anyone else has managed in Vegas, and that may make this place seem like an antidote to sprawl. But it still isn’t much of a center, or much of a city. Indeed, as you drive around the site, you suddenly wonder if CityCenter only appears to be different from the rest of the Strip. After all, cutting-edge contemporary architecture by the likes of Libeskind and Foster has been migrating steadily into the cultural mainstream for years. Now, perhaps, it has reached the point where it is familiar enough, and likable enough, to be just another style available for imitation, like the Pyramids or Renaissance Venice. CityCenter is really the Las Vegas you already know and love, but in modernist drag.

Iowa State Fair & K/O Architects

Iowa State Fair – Facilities Layout Plan – buildings shown in red have recently been completed by K/O

When Iowan’s think of the hot/humid days of August they think of the Iowa State Fair – then they have memories of fried food on a stick, the butter cow, the big bull, people watching…and K/O (right? You all think of us!)! Well, if you don’t think of K/O – read on and we’ll tell you why you should!

As the Fairground Architect K/O has been involved with work at the Iowa State Fairgrounds since 1885. Back when the founders of K/O’s predecessor firm master planned the 400 acre grounds and designed some of it’s initial structures. The fairgrounds located on the east side of Des Moines, stretches between University and Dean Avenues from East 30th to East 36th streets, and were dedicated on September 7, 1886, with an addresses by then Governor Larrabee. We have been involved in the Fairground Design as Fairground Designers on such great Fairground Buildings as the Horse Barn, Cattle Barn, Livestock Barn, Equestrian Arena, Exhibition Building. We have also been involved as Fairground Master Planners on the recent Fairground Master Plan effort.

Known statewide as “Iowa’s Fair” it is also known as “America’s Classic State Fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like setting (see map image). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of Campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings pre-date World War I, and most of these buildings were designed by K/O or their predecessor firm; many are priceless examples of American exposition-style architecture.

Approximately 600 exhibitors and concessions operate daily during the fair. Attendance for the 11-day run of the Iowa State Fair is typically just over one million. The fairgrounds are in their 126th year at their current location. The major structures shown on the map, in red are recent K/O projects including: the renovation of the Grandstand Building (1), the renovation of the Administration Building (2), the new Fair Museum (3), the addition & renovation to the Varied Industries Building (4), the Livestock Pavilion (5) renovation, the new Jacobson Exhibition Center (6), the Horse Barn Renovation (7), the Cattle Barn (8) additions & renovation, the Swine Barn (9) renovation, the relocated & enhanced Covered Riding Arena (10), and the new Animal Stalling Barn (11). The dashed area shown on the plan was reviewed as part of a four block expansion Master Plan also recently completed by K/O.

We would argue that the design of the grounds and facilities is not only more interesting and engaging than the history of any other element tied to the fair – but fundamentally more important to the economic viability of the fair itself and thus, the State of Iowa. It is through our firm’s initial layout, planning, and design of the fairgrounds where the foundation for success was laid. It is with our firm’s continued planning, layout, and design of the historic and new facilities where the ongoing success continues!

Now, when you think of the Iowa State Fair you will also think K/O! Just don’t blame us for the hot/humid days of August.

Celebration, Exhibition, and Education – Fairground Design!

What are the three main ingredients of every great fair in our nation?

  1. Celebration
  2. Exhibition
  3. Education

Celebrating human achievement (having fun, people watching, entertainment, etc.), Exhibiting the best (commercial goods, livestock, art, technology, crops, etc.), and Educating your neighbor on best practices, and the youth as to the way of the future.

During the design of the Jacobson Exhibition Center (Exhibition Building) on the Iowa State Fairgrounds we decided early on that we not only needed to mix in the ingredients of a great fair but we needed to do it while involving the youth of the State somehow in the design of the building. Early on as Fairground Architects in the design process the owner had brought up the desire to work a barn quilt into the new building design. “What?” we asked, “Bring in a seamstress?”. No, not quite!

Our research showed that traditionally barn quilts are an 8’ x 8’ pattern (an oversized quilt like pattern – just like the bed cover you’re thinking of) painted on a wood block and hung on the side of a barn. The great thing about the quilts is that every quilt pattern is unique to the barn it is hung on. People now spend weekends “chasing” (visiting, documenting, photographing) barn quilts across the Midwest and eastern United States. Thousands now exist, a basic history of the barn quilt can be found by following this link or by doing a basic search on the internet.”

After research on the subject we came to the conclusion that the barn quilt’s traditional form as described above would not mesh well with our vision of the new contemporary structure. That is when we made the decision to involve youth from across the state – In the Spring of 2009, the Iowa State Fair Board put out a request from each of the counties in Iowa to create a quilt block to represent their respective county. One design was then chosen from each County. Each design, 102 in all (one from each County in the State of Iowa + 3 extra) were recreated in 16”x16” clay tiles and installed in a repeating pattern around the over 1000 foot perimeter of the arena/exhibition building. This feature not only showcased the talents of the youth of our State but, created an impressive architectural adornment and level of detail that was unique to traditional fairground design.

This is now a one of a kind destination for many reasons but, as this story goes – especially for those that “chase” barn quilts. This is the only place in the world where you can walk around a single building and enjoy 102 unique barn quilt designs, all in one location, and all on one barn!

The photo below was taken from the blog Write Formation.

Traditional Barn Quilt Example

Fairgound and Town Planning are "Ringers"

Payette County Fair – New Plymouth, Idaho

The Payette County Fair is located in New Plymouth, Idaho. The Payette County Fair is a 4 day event held in mid August. We had an opportunity to visit this nice fairgrounds on a recent trip to Idaho. This 18 acre fair is located in a rich agriculture region of Idaho, not too far from Interstate 84 and just far enough to keep this beautiful land separated from the hustle and bustle of nearby development. The region has one of the largest horse populations in the State, and thus is an excellent example of local/regional quality livestock. Not only is the fairgrounds delightful in layout and impressive as to the number and quality of its animals – it still did not make as large an impression on us as something else that quite honestly had nothing to do with the grounds itself.

As Fairground Architects and Fairground Master Planning specialists what impressed us the most was the layout of the city of New Plymouth. In the late 19th century the land for this town was bought and planned before it was even settled (here is the Wikipedia link). We would argue that this experiment in city planning, although unique, is rather successful! The city is designed in a horseshoe shape with its open end facing to the north, toward the railroad and the Payette River. Design wise (here is a map of New Plymouth) homes are laid out in lots that circle the horseshoe – each home fronts a horseshoe street and backs-up to a green space behind it. On the outside edge of the horseshoe the town is surrounded by two streets (like a boulevard) separated by a rather wide green space or park area. The length of this park is exactly 1 mile (we got to travel it several times as we spent time navigating the community). The horseshoe is not overly large (about 5 blocks wide x 5 blocks long) it is made up of about 5 or so continuous wrapping streets and nine radial streets that run perpendicular to the center of the horseshoe. The town is then wrapped by industrial areas outside the horseshoe and has highway 30 running through its center (this serves as the town’s connection to the rest of the county and as its lifeblood of commercial activity).

All that said, the best part about traveling around the horseshoe is “hands down” the gem of a fairgrounds you’ll find when you make it to the end of your journey on the North East edge of town. So, yes both the Payette County Fair and the City of New Plymouth, Idaho are Ringers!

We Get to Work in the Best Places!

View out window – Box Elder Co Fair Master Planning

We were recently treated to this view – experienced from the window of the conference center at our most recent meeting in Utah!  As Fairground Designers, Fairground Planners, and Fairground Architects our work takes us across the United States to some unexpected places.

…Our plane landed at 9:30am not too long after the snowfall had subsided (about 3 inches – and up to 24 inches or so in the mountains). It did not last long as the air temperature was above freezing and the snow plows made haste pushing it aside. Thank goodness because we needed to rush to our next meeting with Box Elder County regarding master planning their fairgrounds.

Our meeting was held at the appropriately and contextually designed “Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge”. Once we finished our presentation we were able to relax and look out across the valley at the snow covered mountains.

“Boy, we wish we would have brought our skis, or at least scheduled an extra couple of days in this beautiful country!”

There is no doubt, “We get to work in the Best Places!”

We Go To Great Lengths! … and Great Distances!

K/O Architects travel the Globe or at least North America

What do the following states have in common – Idaho, Utah, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. Let’s narrow it down. Besides all having beautiful countryside and gorgeous scenery. Two of the States have incredible mountain top skiing, one of the states has 10,000 lakes, another has two NFL and MLB teams, and the yet another has the Iowa State Fair. Are you any closer to guessing the correct answer? If you guessed they are all states that K/O is currently working in – you would be correct! That’s right, our entertainment projects and fairground planning takes us all over North America. The dashed lines are starting to look like a cross Atlantic map from a travel sequence of an “Indiana Jones” movie. Help us color in our map and keep the dashed lines going! If you have a fairground or entertainment venue that is in need of repair, rework, or just in need of fresh ideas – give us a call. We’ll happily “go the distance” and help you solve your problems and put a smile on your face!

WOW! … Now That’s Service!

K/O Architects offers Great Service

K/O Architects offers Great Service

Just the other day we were passing through Oakely, Utah and needed to fill up the tank of our rental car.  Just after we pulled into the local Sinclair station I jumped out of the vehicle and took off the gas cap; a man’s voice said with a smile – “I can do that”.  He made his way over to the pump and proceeded to fill up my tank with gas, clean all of my windows (they were a little dirty, but not enough for me to feel that I needed to clean them at all), and asked me if I wanted the oil level or tire air pressure checked.  The eighty plus year old gentleman that did all this: called me sir, thanked me for my business, and told me to stop back if I was ever in the area again.  All this and the price per gallon was not any different than the last pay at the pump convience store we had passed 30 miles ago.  All I could think of was – WOW! … Now that’s SERVICE!  Honestly, take a look at the place I did not expect it – but, I can tell you this; I won’t think twice about driving out way out of my way to come back here!

It just got me thinking about what our society has come to expect.  Just forty or so years ago we would have been offended if this level of service was overlooked – this was the norm.  Now we pay at the pump and do it ourselves and don’t think twice when the clerk doesn’t make eye contact with us.
Just think of how many people we could make say “WOW!” – if we would all just provide service like we used to.

What do you consider full service?