About 6 months ago, when we began to plan this special section about Kansas City architecture, a question loomed: Where do we start?
Hundreds of magazine-worthy homes are scattered across the metropolitan area. How do we choose?
As we tossed around ideas, some famous and familiar names kept popping up: Marcel Breuer, Drummond/Runnells, Frank Lloyd Wright. All design icons of the 20th century.
Thanks to the help of Scott Lane, architecture buff and a founding member of KC Modern, we found six homes built between the ’20s and the ’60s.
Lane showed me potential candidates by car. Then he hooked me up with the homeowners.
Next we signed on another architecture buff, photographer Roy Inman, to shoot the homes. Here’s the thing about Inman: He’s one of the gentlest, most earnest perfectionists I’ve ever met. He spent hours getting the shots right on each home in this section (and the dozens more online), often returning at dusk to get the perfect moody shot of the exterior.
Each home in this section is distinctive. Mary Rockwell Hook’s home feels like an Italian villa. Ed Tanner’s Bixby House has a California vibe. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sondern-Adler house feels …. well, like a Frank Lloyd Wright home. What more can you say? The guy was the father of modern American architecture.
Yet the architects and their homes share common traits. They eschewed traditional design and pushed the boundaries toward something new, bold and wondrous. They played with lines and proportions, made use of materials in new ways, captured natural daylight and created spaces that are still fresh and modern — even futuristic.
What’s more, no detail was too small or insignificant for a singular flourish, whether it was tiny hobby mirrors placed near the eaves on Bruce Goff’s Nicol House, built-in drawers given a sculptural quality in Marcel Breuer’s Snower residence or the vibrant blue panel floating between the kitchen and second-floor balcony in the Drummond/Runnells home.
It was so fun to tour these homes with their current owners, most of whom consider themselves custodians of pieces of history. They’ve taken great pains to maintain the integrity of each home’s original designs and the architect’s intent — a formidable task that requires research, patience, money and time.
All the homeowners were warm, patient and gracious with our probing questions and gobs of photo equipment. It is thanks to them that we’re able to present this beautiful pictorial tour of some of the most iconic homes in Kansas City.