2020 Year in Review

Before we celebrate the start of a new year — particularly one as highly anticipated as 2021 — we would be remiss if we didn’t take a few moments to reflect on the highlights of 2020.

We all know that this year has been unlike any other, but through the challenges, we were inspired by our people, took pause to enhance our practice, and derived optimism from the resilience of our community.

Best wishes for a safe, happy, and prosperous 2021!

Our Community

On numerous occasions throughout the year, we were inspired by the spirit and creativity of our clients and community.

At the beginning of the year, three Helix clients were recognized by the Kansas City Business Journal’s annual Capstone Awards program: McCownGordon Construction, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri, and Farina.

Even during the beginning of the stay-at-home order, Mid-Continent Public Libraries (MCPL) continued to offer its robust services to its patrons, just in a different format. MCPL also continued to move forward with the renovation and construction of its branches, which Helix is completing in partnership with SAPP Design Architects.

Kansas City ranked in the top 10 for adaptive reuse projects, according to a recent report by Rent Café. The report was released the same week that we celebrated the grand opening of Arc on Armour. It reaffirms our work with visionary clients who see the potential in bringing new life to existing structures.

Our People

Our staff are the DNA of our firm, the two parts of the intertwined helix that inspired our name. We started 2020 with a batch of new hires to round out our ranks. From there, Helixers went on to make tremendous impacts in community, civic, and professional organizations.

Helix principal Jay Tomlinson, FAIA tapped into his entrepreneurial roots to be a “shark” in the 2020 Pure Pitch Rally. He also participated in Startland’s annual Back2KC event, contributing to a panel titled “Back2Beautiful.” The two-day virtual event was aimed at luring former Kansas Citians back to their hometown.

Kyle Leiker, AIA became a registered architect, celebrating this significant accomplishment by eating pizza on the couch and watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with his family.

Helix architect and our in-house preservation guru Liz Ponder, AIA was elected to the Association for Preservation Technology Central Plains’ chapter (APTCP) Board of Directors. The APT is dedicated to promoting the best technology for historic structures and their settings.

Helix principal Doug Stockman, AIA was part of a group of passionate community leaders who participated in ULI Kansas City’s Technical Assistance Panel on development opportunities in the Chouteau Courts area.

Mike Schwaller, AIA was selected for the AIA Kansas City Pillars Leadership program. Mike’s participation continues Helix’s perfect record of having our firm represented in the program every year since its inception.

Two Helixers were honored during AIA Kansas City’s annual Board Awards. Travis Snell won third place in the Monsters of Design: Diagramming competition, and Ellen Hailey, AIA was recognized as the AIA Kansas City Emerging Professional.

Our Practice

At the beginning of the year, we gathered over lunch to share lessons learned from the previous year. This candid and honest examination of the paths taken, choices made, and outcomes of these decisions set the tone for conversations to follow as the pandemic hit Kansas City.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 had immediate effects on our work and caused us to think about the long-term impacts. We took several opportunities throughout the course of the year to evaluate our work and discuss the changes that we would see in each of our markets.

One market that has absolutely been changed by the pandemic has been the workplace. Using our own office as a testing ground, our in-house workplace strategists shared the insights and tools that they developed to help our clients navigate the path forward. As the situation evolved and we continued to learn more from others in the community, we hosted a virtual panel with leaders from three different organizations to discuss their approach to how and when they would return to the office.

The Health Education Building at the University of Kansas Medical Center received an Honorable Mention from the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) Excellence Awards. A collaboration between Helix and CO Architects, the project was one of only ten buildings recognized for Excellence in Architecture.

19 Main, the first new construction office building in the Crossroads Arts District in more than 60 years, received a Merit Award from AIA Central States. The jury noted 19 Main’s connection ot the urban context, both inside and out.

KCU officials at the College of Dental Medicine in Joplin challenged Helix and our partners at SmithGroup to revise our current design to create a safer environment for dental students and patients who will be visiting the oral health clinic. Taking into consideration the nature of dental instruction and exposure to respiratory aerosols, our team evaluated everything from building systems to furniture layouts.

Additionally, the rich integration of technology at KCU’s new Center for Medical Education Innovation in Kansas City enabled students to supplement their instruction with extended reality. CMEI, which was designed in partnership with CO Architects, increased simulation space on campus and is a hub for connected learning.