Kansas City firm's design wins Blue Barn Theatre green space contest

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Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 11:05 am, Tue Mar 25, 2014.

It was the creative way the firm proposed to handle a dirty subject — storm water runoff — that helped cinch the win for El Dorado of Kansas, City, Mo.

El Dorado on Friday was named the winner of Omaha’s Green in the City contest, a competition that sought the most innovative way to turn a roughly 70-foot-by-100-foot parking lot into an urban community space for the public.

The space will be the backyard of the future Blue Barn Theatre at 10th and Pacific Streets, and is adjacent to the proposed condo-retail building, Boxcar 10. So the idea was for the space to also fit with those arts-focused elements.

Adam Price, executive director of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, was on the jury that selected El Dorado from five finalists that presented detailed plans in Omaha earlier this month. Those five came from about 50 entries.

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Price said El Dorado’s plan for handling storm water runoff — which he called a huge issue in urban development — stood out.

“It’s the technological handling of the storm water, but also the aesthetic handling of it,” said Price. “There was something very elegant and potentially beautiful about it.”

El Dorado’s proposal, “Roof Ground, Water,” calls for water to flow from the theater roof into cisterns that could feed plants or hose off sidewalks. Rain also will be channeled in ways, and via equipment, that will be engaging to the ear and to the eye, said El Dorado principal David Dowell.

The team carried the pitched, zigzag design of the theater’s roof down to the ground where people would congregate. A wall of steel along Pacific Street will take the form of triangles. Borders and banisters will be modeled after the roof’s pattern and made of the same material.

Grassy areas that span outward from the theater toward 11th Street also will contain subtle pitches. Dowell wanted the space to be flexible.

The proposal also seeks to involve architecture and landscape architecture students from Kansas State University, where Dowell teaches, and construction management students from the University of Nebraska’s Peter Kiewit Institute in Omaha.

Price said the jury’s hope is that the storm water and other design features will be a “road map” for future developments.

Omaha philanthropist Nancy Mammel, the developer of Boxcar 10, donated the land for the theatre and green space and is providing the lead grant to make El Dorado’s design come to life. The project site ultimately will be turned over to the Blue Barn.

“We truly enjoyed the competition process,” Dowell said. “It was well run and clearly supported by the community. The five final proposals were inspiring — each unique in their own way — and we’re honored to be in such talented company.”

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