State Historical Society of Missouri and Gould Evans Celebrate Grand Opening of Center for Missouri Studies

KANSAS CITY, MO – August 12, 2019 – Nationally recognized design and planning firm Gould Evans, together with the State Historical Society of Missouri (SHSMO), celebrates the grand opening of the new Center for Missouri Studies, a vibrant, living research center and archive designed as a new landmark for Missouri’s cultural heritage.

The new 76,700 square foot building in downtown Columbia, MO, provides a home commensurate with SHSMO’s identity as the premier research center for the study of Missouri state and local history, housing the largest collection of work by renowned Missouri artists George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Hart Benton. It provides nearly 49,000 more square feet of space than SHSMO’s previous home in the University of Missouri’s Ellis Library, enabling a substantial expansion of the organization’s research and exhibit space, and a significant increase in its public programming.

The iconic new building, sited on a prominent corner of the city across from Peace Park on the University of Missouri campus, creates a dramatic street presence for SHSMO and helps it fulfill its mission to collect, preserve, and disseminate Missouri’s history and heritage to the public.

“We wanted a building that was more than a place to house historical records. We wanted a space that inspired those who entered it to be reflective about the meaning of Missouri and to be appreciative and even proud of our rich collective heritage. We wanted the building to be a work of art in itself. Gould Evans has given us all these things in the Center for Missouri Studies. We are extremely pleased,” said Gary Kremer, Executive Director of the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The building’s distinctive rippling form is an outgrowth of its function, program, and symbolic meaning. The design embodies the concept of confluence: the meeting of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, which is integral to the founding of both the state of Missouri and the nation.

This concept is evident at a variety of scales:

  • Placement in Community: The building is sited at the threshold between the University of Missouri and downtown Columbia: acting as a connector between the two and a means of providing communication between the scholastic and civic;
  • Building Organization: The building’s soaring, light-filled atrium acts as a connector to the Society’s primary programs: the Research Center, art gallery, auditorium, and archives. A dramatic wood-paneled central stair – inspired by the flowing landscapes in Thomas Hart Benton’s paintings – invites movement upwards to the collection and reading room.
  • Building Form: The building is arranged as a series of programmatic ripples: visible as individual towers from the exterior that each house unique functions. On the interior, these ripples create individual classrooms, office areas, and the Research Center. The high degree of transparency between these vertical layers of program enables users to navigate clearly through the building’s main spaces.

“During the design process, we were fascinated by the way history provides a context for understanding the present,” said Sean Zaudke, Associate Principal at Gould Evans. “We tried to create places of public gathering and interchange that provide an experience of Missouri history, that help bring it to life and invite further exploration.”

The new building provides a host of community gathering spaces, including:

  • An expandable, multipurpose auditorium that seats up to 250 people;
  • An enhanced Research Center that houses historical documents and supports genealogy research by offering greater access to documents, microfilm rolls, maps, and rare books;
  • A suite of flexible classrooms and meeting spaces to house learning sessions, gatherings, films, etc.;
  • An art gallery that more than doubles the organization’s exhibit space. The adjacency of the art gallery to the classroom spaces enables new thematic pairings of lectures and exhibits.

The building’s primary materials are sourced from Missouri, including the exterior limestone quarried in Ste. Genevieve, MO, and the white oak used throughout the interior woodwork.

A public grand opening and building dedication ceremony for the Center for Missouri Studies was held on Saturday, August 10.


Jessica Kleoppel

High-resolution renderings and photos are available for download here.

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