If Kansas City, Missouri, isn’t on your architectural radar yet, it will be soon enough. Kansas City has achieved much since the early 1900s in the way of architecture.

Beautiful, sprawling, and complicated buildings are sprinkled throughout its region. Some of the world’s best architects have graced this city with their work. They’ve provided residents and tourists alike with awe-inspiring views every day for decades.

Kansas City architecture is nothing to scoff at. If you’ve never studied the elegant artistry that is KC’s best buildings, keep reading as we highlight some of their makers.

Moshe Safdie

Kauffman center, large silver building with trees in front

If you’ve ever driven by the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, you’ve witnessed a design project by Moshe Safdie come to life. The architect—who has three citizenships—has had quite a local impact.

Safdie owns the company Safdie Architects, which created the Center’s high-tech building in 2011. It features two performance halls, a fantastic lobby, a large parking garage, a park, great halls, public gathering areas, balconies, grand staircases, theaters, and more. All this is housed within a delicate, swooping frame that makes up part of Kansas City’s skyline.

Safdie has been practicing for over 50 years, creating several cultural and educational buildings in that time.

George Kessler

You can’t talk about Kansas City architecture without mentioning George Kessler.

Kessler is the landscape architect responsible for making Kansas City the architectural wonder that it is today. He established the foundation by creating designs for the first Kansas City parks, as well as its boulevard system.

Before Kessler, Kansas City had a reputation for being a slum. Thanks to Kessler’s involvement in the City Beautiful Movement, Kansas City was no longer the eyesore it used to be. Besides the first parks and boulevards, which brought beauty and civility to town, he also revamped Hyde Park—once called a shantytown.

Clarence Kivett

Clarence Kivett is another name worth mentioning. His firm, Kivett and Myers, created dozens of buildings throughout the Kansas City area.

Perhaps the most preeminent building of his is the Kansas City International Airport, which has recently been granted funds for a renovation. His other greats include the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (formerly named the Alameda Plaza Hotel) and the Truman Sports Complex.

Before Kivett had his own firm, he once designed a drugstore in 1934 that was considered very contemporary at the time. This plan was only a glimpse at the greatness to come from this artist. The next time you get a chance, take a drive by The Katz Drugstore, and don’t forget to look for the clock tower.

Mary Elizabeth Colter

Mary Elizabeth Colter was an American female architect that worked for several years in Kansas City with the firm Fred Harvey Company. When the firm relocated to Union Square, she came along—and ultimately had a hand in spearheading Kansas City architecture.

Colter is responsible for designing several well-loved buildings in Kansas City, including the Fred Harvey Restaurant and its gift shop. Another famous installation was the Westport Room Restaurant at Union Station.

With Fred Harvey’s firm, Colter designed several other structures around town and oversaw remodeling projects that came after her work was finished. Eventually, a cocktail lounge was also added to the restaurant—a project that Colter saw through to the end.

Her work continued after she left Kansas City. Some of the most influential designs of hers are located at the Grand Canyon.

Edward W. Tanner

Edward W. Tanner, a University of Kansas-trained architect, is another individual responsible for the foundation of Kansas City’s architecture.

He crafted much of the Country Club Plaza, as well as many well-known streetscapes. You’ve likely strolled past his work before without even realizing it.

Tanner has made quite the impact on this city, contributing to what’s listed above, as well as:

  • Many places on UKMC’s campus, including Linda Hall Library
  • Several of Kansas City’s most charming suburbs
  • Various spots throughout Prairie Village, such as the Prairie Village Shopping Center
  • The Crestwood Shops
  • The Public Library building

He also contributed design work to his alma mater (the Danforth Chapel) and designed thousands of traditional homes in the region. One noteworthy exception was the Bixby House at 6505 State Line, which stood out for being more modern.

Nelle Nichols Peters

Another of Kansas City’s most creative and influential architects is Nelle Peters.

Peters designed almost a thousand of Kansas City’s buildings, proving herself to be a groundbreaking female architect in a city full of males. Thanks to a local firm that didn’t have a problem with her gender, Peters began designing apartment buildings and hotels all around town. She also designed single-family homes and corporate offices.

Still, there’s no denying that her hotel and apartment complex designs were the most famous.

Peters proved to be both talented and innovative, with designs that were multi-functional, spacious, and “open.”

Don’t Take Kansas City Architecture for Granite

Or granted . . . you know what we mean.

Kansas City is an extraordinary place to see some outstanding buildings. From the massive Performing Arts Center to the historic Country Club Plaza, and all the stops between, any architecture tour of Kansas City is sure to enthrall and excite. Whether you’re an aspiring architect, a tourist or a lifelong KC resident doesn’t matter.

For Kansas City architecture today, turn to Jimmy O’Loughlin’s team at Budingen Architecture LLC. Whether you’re a homeowner looking for a custom design or a builder looking for a creative, licensed architect, Budingen Architecture is at your service.

Click here to get started and receive a free consultation about your project. We look forward to working with you and contributing more great work to this city!