Standing the Test of Time

We Revisited the Kansas City Contemporary Architectural Icon to See How Frank Miller’s Quartersawn Hardwoods Have Stood the Test of Time.

Kauffman Center

Helzberg Hall

The design of the Kauffman Center was precipitated by the decision to build two distinct halls: Muriel Kauffman Theatre, an 1,800-seat venue with a 5,000 square foot stage; and Helzberg Hall, a 1,600-seat oval chamber with a stage that extends approximately one-third of the distance into the Hall.

The Kauffman Center opened in 2011, and has experienced a great deal of traffic from patrons, concertgoers, and the public in the years since. We revisited the Hall in 2016 to see how the beautiful and durable quartersawn hardwoods of Frank Miller Lumber have held up.


The decision was made to install a rift red oak floor with some reasonably allowable color variation and straight grain with minimal figure on the face of the boards. The width (4 in) of the face of the boards is an ideal width for rift lumber, as the narrower boards in the quartersawing process tend to exhibit the least amount of figure.

The architects collaborated with Acme Floor Company to create a hall that was intimate where the audience could be engaged with the performances. Acme worked with Frank Miller for more than one and one-half years to ensure that the width-sorted rift red oak would be delivered on time, allowing them to meet both the aesthetic requirements and the production time frame.

Standing the Test of Time and Traffic

The incomparably beautiful quartersawn hardwoods Frank Miller produces, including white and red oak, score high on the Janka hardness scale, which measures the denting resistance of various wood species. Additionally, the quartersawing process intrinsically improves lumber stability. Unlike plainsawn hardwoods, straight-grained quartersawn hardwoods tend to expand and contract in thickness, not width, virtually eliminating warping, twisting and cupping. This made quartersawn hardwood the perfect material choice for the flooring in Helzberg Hall. Architects and designers like Safdie can be assured of the lumber’s utilitarian durability for a long service life, and confidently create a vision that will endure.

After more than four years in the making and five years in use, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts remains the crowning achievement of the Kansas City downtown revitalization effort.

“We have been so pleased with the wood floors in Helzberg Hall,” said Jane Chu, president and CEO, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. “The precision and craftsmanship that went into the installation of these floors played a role in the sophisticated acoustics, to reveal the purity of sound in Helzberg Hall.”