What We Do

Vanderslice Hall Renovation

Bringing back the historic grandeur to the heart of the Kansas City Art Institute.

Situated at the gateway of the Kansas City Art Institute’s (KCAI) picturesque campus, Vanderslice Hall is a historic icon that has served KCAI students for more than a century. Since it was originally constructed in 1895, Vanderslice Hall has fulfilled a multitude of uses for KCAI as the institute grew and its needs evolved. More than 30 years ago, select areas of the building were turned into office space for KCAI’s admissions staff, enclosing many of Vanderslice’s original details with drop ceilings and office walls.

Location: Kansas City, MO
Size: 3,245 SF

After completing its master plan in 2017, KCAI has been on a strategic path towards increasing their enrollment and elevating the student experience. Vanderslice Hall plays a pivotal role in recruiting students with its prominent location on campus. It is often the first stop on campus tours and is where prospective students present their portfolios. KCAI understood the significance of restoring Vanderslice Hall to its previous grandeur and creating a show-stopping destination for campus visits.

Inspired by the ornate details of its original Flemish Queen Anne architecture, KCAI and Helix placed equal priority on returning this portion of the building to its original rhythm and feeling, and creating a functional office to serve KCAI’s admissions staff. Armed with archives of photographs that depict the spaces as they were initially designed, the team resolved to fully restore or replicate wherever possible.

The demolition of the dated office set-up revealed beautiful, stately rooms that had been entombed by the additions from more than 30 years ago. Each room contained unexpected elements that impacted the final design, as well as intricate details that came together to evoke the historic grandeur from its original construction. The most dramatic revelation happened in the fernery, where stained glass windows on three of the four walls were uncovered to bring back immersive views to the rest of campus.

In instances where restoring or replicating historic features was not possible, Helix inserted contemporary elements to clearly delineate the old and the new. Simple, modern materials and furniture serve as a neutral backdrop to intricate crown molding, elaborate wallcoverings, and highly detailed craftsmanship on the fireplace.