Contemporary Architectural Icon Chose Quartersawn Hardwood
for its Elegance and Durability

Kauffman Center

Helzberg Hall


Located in historic downtown Kansas City, the 285,000 square foot Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts changed the city’s skyline, and the very essence of modern building design. The Center was designed by internationally renowned architecture firm Safdie Architects, and features a theater, a performance hall, and an expansive outdoor terrace for the city’s arts district.

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, placing 40 percent of the seats alongside or behind the orchestra for an engrossing audience experience. Helzberg Hall hosts a variety of local, regional, national and international artists and performance groups, and serves as the performance home of the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra.


Moshe Safdie and his firm worked with Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics to design a volumetric and geometric concept for the hall — a space that would showcase the delicate acoustics of solo concerts, chamber music and even full orchestras. The architects needed a flooring material that would not only match their intended design and aesthetic, but stand the test of time and endure the footsteps of countless future patrons.

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 firm collaborated with Acme Floor Company to create a hall that was intimate where the audience could be engaged with the performances. With a stage made from western red cedar and walls paneled in vertical grain Douglas-fir, the architects chose rift red oak flooring to complement their dramatic design, and flooring manufacturer Acme turned to the leading quartersawn hardwood experts at Frank Miller Lumber. 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.

The Frank Miller Solution

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, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened in September 2011. The Center has been wildly popular since its opening, and is considered to be the crowning achievement of the Kansas City downtown revitalization effort.

Helzberg Hall, a dramatic space that combines sophisticated aesthetics, acoustics and technology with the intimacy of a smaller space and the comforts of home, could not have been completed without the distinctive beauty and durability of quartersawn hardwood. All 34,000 square feet of the rift red oak used in Helzberg Hall was supplied by Frank Miller Lumber, with the flooring produced and installed by Acme Floor Company. The final impact is an intimate and immersive performance hall alive with the vibrant and beautiful mix of North American hardwoods and softwoods.

“The Frank Miller rift red oak for the flooring was of excellent quality,” said Henning Mikkelsen, installation specialist, Acme Floor Company. “When I returned to the hall in the fall of 2012, the floors looked as beautiful as the day they were installed.”

The Helzberg Hall flooring project won the 2012 “Best Commercial Wood Flooring” award from The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA).

“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.”

Quick Stats:

Nearly 60,000 board feet of rough lumber was produced to yield the 34,000 square feet of flooring

Species: Red Oak

Type: Rift

Board width: ¾ in x 4 in board width

Project time frame: Approximately two years, from pulling logs to manufacture and installation