In the years following World War II, the federal government grew rapidly and the changing needs of the federal workforce required office buildings designed to meet new challenges. Mechanized mass-production techniques for building components and increased familiarity with innovative construction materials and technologies provided architects with new ways to create functional and cost-efficient buildings. Structural steel, glass, and concrete became widely used building materials. At the same time, the American public was receptive to new, unprecedented architectural forms and ideals. Throughout the United States, federal architecture was less ceremonial, monumental, and ornate than public buildings from previous eras, and for the first time government buildings began to resemble private architecture.
The design of the Richard Bolling Federal Building is the product of a joint-venture collaboration of four firms: Voskamp and Slezak, Everitt and Keleti, Radotinsky Meyn Deardorff, and Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff. Voskamp and Slezak of Kansas City was the lead firm in the project.
The new Kansas City federal building was completed in 1965. The site occupies two full blocks and contains a tall office tower, a low building, and a landscaped plaza. Many architects used this combination of built components for federal building design during the 1950s and 1960s, most likely to emulate the United Nations complex in Manhattan, which contains the same elements.
In 1994, the building was rededicated in honor of Congressman Richard Bolling (1916-1991), who represented the Fifth District of Missouri from 1949 to 1983. Bolling was a member of the Committee on Rules and greatly influenced congressional reform in the 1970s.
Currently, 16 federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, and Health and Human Services, occupy the building.
The Richard Bolling Federal Building is bordered by East Twelfth, East Thirteenth, Locust, and Holmes streets in the Central Business District in Kansas City. The building, which contains 1.2 million gross square feet, pairs a tall office tower with a long, low building arranged around a central plaza.
The dominant feature of the site is the 18-story office tower with a flat roof. Using Modern-era materials, the building has a fire-proof steel frame. The two primary elevations are faced with glass panes and aluminum panels that alternate in a checkerboard pattern. The glass is tinted grey and the aluminum panels are slightly concave with a large X pattern located within each plate. The two narrow end walls are devoid of fenestration. These angular elevations are faced with variegated granite.
The long, low building is set slightly off-center of the tower. Long vertical strips of aluminum tube cladding are original to the building, but sections of it were removed and reinstalled in a wave pattern during 2000 renovations. A large bronze United States seal with an eagle motif signifies the building's federal use.
The interior features public spaces finished in high-quality materials. Marble piers are present in the main lobby, while marble paneled walls are in the elevator lobby. Dark granite tiles cover the floors of both areas.
Public art is an integral element of both the interior and exterior of the Richard Bolling Federal Building. A large mural titled The Movement of Time from Redman to Truman (1967) by Frederick Conway is located in the lobby. A bas-relief stone sculpture called The Builders (1966) by Constantino Nivola forms the exterior base of the Twelfth Street elevation.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has initiated several projects to improve the Richard Bolling Federal Building. BNIM Architects developed designs for the facility that included a new entry pavilion, corridor renovations, and plaza improvements. Completed in 2003, the renovations to the building and plaza are part of GSA's First Impressions initiative, which strives to improve the entrance experience for both tenants and visitors. The architects designed a new entrance lobby on the Twelfth Street elevation. A covered walkway leads to a new two-story, glass-enclosed entrance pavilion and lobby that is connected to the lower building, but also provides access to the office tower. The glass pavilion has a flat roof that is supported by four white columns. This new entrance serves to visually connect the large tower to the Civic Center at Twelfth and Locust streets.
Renovations to the plaza integrated security features into the design with the installation of new flagpoles, benches, and planters. A black granite reflecting pool visually extends the black terrazzo floor of the lobby. In 2004, BNIM Architects, along with J.E. Dunn Construction, received an Honor Award from the Kansas City chapter of the American Institute of Architects for the renovations and alterations to the Richard Bolling Federal Building. The jury praised the architects' design, which reestablishes the connection between the federal building and its larger urban setting. BNIM Architects also received a 2004 GSA Design Award for its innovative entrance and landscape plans that incorporate state-of-the-art security while maintaining a welcoming atmosphere.
A separate project by Helix Architecture Design is underway to provide a complete modernization and renovation of the building, including new lighting systems and total replacement of heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems. This project will span ten years and is estimated to cost $250 million.
1961-1965: Building designed and constructed
1966: The Builders installed
1967: The Movement of Time from Redman to Truman installed
1994: Building rededicated to honor Congressman Richard Bolling
2002: GSA commences 10-year, $250 million renovation
2002-2003: New entry pavilion and plaza improvements completed
2004: BNIM Architects receives AIA Honor Award
Location: 601 East Twelfth Street
Architects: Voskamp and Slezak; Everitt and Keleti; Radotinsky Meyn Deardorff; Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff
Construction Dates: 1962-1965
Architectural Style: Sixties Modern
Primary Materials: Glass, aluminum, and granite
Prominent Features: 18-story office tower; Glass-enclosed entrance pavilions; Landscaped plaza