Architect: Runnells Clark Waugh and Matsumoto Architects
Year Designed: circa 1945-46
Year Built: circa 1947-48
Location: Kansas City, MO
Status: Fair with multiple additions that obscure major parts and concepts of the original building
Photographed By: Fred Gund
Photos Scanned From: Progressive Architecture February 1949. Art School, Kansas City, Missouri. pp 62-65.
The studio roofs were raised higher than the surrounding corridor and service spaces to accommodate clerestory windows and give that portion of the program a sense of hierarchy. The building was framed in concrete with some steel bar joist roof construction. The frame was then filled with concrete block walls and the exterior of the building was rendered in a vocabulary of red brick, concrete block, limestone and corrugated asbestos cement panels. The interiors were mostly concrete and lightweight concrete block left in a raw unfinished state.
The north end of the spine was punctuated by a two level classroom wing, with a full level below the main floor. The classroom wing housed industrial design studios upstairs and painting, typesetting and service areas downstairs. These rooms all had large north facing windows.
The south end of the spine was marked by the main studio, a life drawing studio done in a sculptural form of contrasting limestone. The stepped trapezoidal plan and section segments allowed for multiple north facing clerestories to light the large complex space, which was designed for 150 people. Today the clerestory windows are covered with sheet metal siding.
The main stepped form of the life drawing studio was likely inspired by some of Alvar Aalto's work in Finland. We know from Runnells sketch books that he traveled to Finland and certainly would have been familiar with the work. Runnels and Matsumoto's body of work certainly was closely related to Aalto's use of light and "Aaltos Red Brick Period."
Besides relating to Cranbrook the red brick with limestone trim was also a tribute to Vanderslice Hall. The limestone cladding of the life drawing studio related to the cladding of the nearby Nelson Atkins.