Architecture Partnership With K-State Offers Students Unique Experience

Joel Burford won the Helix Prize scholarship challenge for architecture and design students
Joe Burford

Our ongoing story starts with people from around the world, converging here at UMKC. Get to know our people and you’ll know what UMKC is all about. Joel Burford recently won the Helix Prize and Scholarship for architecture and design students. He shared a little about his entry and what it’s like being an architecture student at UMKC. 

Joel Burford
Expected graduation date: UMKC 2019, completing program at Kansas State University 2022
Hometown: Wichita, Kansas
High School: Homeschooled K-12
Program: M.A. Architecture, Interior Architecture/Product Design

Why did you choose your field of study?

From the time I was little, I was always designing and making an array of things. From websites in PowerPoint to handmade magazines, movie sets and props to competitive robots. Product and industrial design (as well as architecture) have been the longest running passions of mine.

Architectural model

Why did you choose UMKC?
UMKC is nicely situated near many great sites in Kansas City for architecture students such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Union Station and the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts. In addition, Kansas City is home to much of my family.

Many don’t realize the architecture program is a partnership between UMKC and Kansas State University. As a student, how do you benefit from this partnership?
For me, I get the best of both worlds: UMKC is in an urban setting with smaller class sizes and KSU is in the Kansas plains with larger class sizes. By working on the UMKC to KSU path, I get the maximum variety in learning while still growing in the same curriculum.

Where do you draw inspiration from when working on a project?

Depending on the project, inspiration can come from site visits, programmatic issues, precedence of similar projects or doodling on paper and bouncing ideas off peers.

“UMKC is nicely situated near many great sites in Kansas City for architecture students such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Union Station and the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts.”
–Joel Burford 

UMKC architecture student Joel Burford talks to people

You won the 2018 Helix Prize and Scholarship. Tell us about the architecture and design competition.
Every year there’s a final project for the semester, which is also the biggest. This year, we were tasked with creating a (hypothetical) library in the Columbus Park neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, and were given suggested specifications for size (about 28-29,000 square feet) and a list of required rooms: reading room, books stacks, business center, study rooms, café, etc. There was a large learning curve with this project. Previously, our biggest project had been a fairly large pavilion—even that was small compared to this.

We had to take into consideration the rich history of the neighborhood and interpret how the library of 2018 would fit into that. To accomplish this, I designed a library that transitions the community from the old to the new with what we call in architecture a “wall scheme.” The neighborhood on the south side of the library’s site (located on East 5th Street and between Harrison Street and Gillis Street) is dense, and the green space to the north is open. Visitors walk through limestone and terra cotta veneered spaces - reflecting the historic architecture - to a larger and open space where the steel structure emerges, celebrating modern architectural technology and giving the neighborhood an enriching community hub.

Also, on the site there are locust trees. I decided that instead of outsourcing the wood, we could use materials already on the site. The wood from those trees would be used for the main circulation flooring. This would help give a warm-feeling middle to the library.

Learn more about the Architecture Program

Published: Mar 21, 2019