Location: Kansas City, Missouri
In 2017, DRAW was shortlisted for the Public Art component of the KCPL Charlotte Street Substation in the historic Northeast neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri. After many hours of research into the site and surrounding neighborhoods and the nature of electricity and electrical transformation, the team developed a proposal entitled “KCPL Transformations.”
The site borders a highway, an overpass, the eastern edge of downtown and a historic neighborhood noted for the diverse community that lives there. It is a place of transition, from one neighborhood to another, from one speed to another and from one land use to another. An electrical substation, which is all about transformation of power from higher to lower voltages, is perfect for the site. It’s a place of change, of transformation, of magic, and the team’s vision was to capture that in their proposal.
The concept was to amplify the diversity, transformation and power of the site with a series of large photographs of neighborhood kids—their faces caught in the midst of an oncoming smile. The photographs, made of graphic concrete, are in keeping with the precast construction of the substation walls. Through the use of a special coating, the graphic concrete mold leaves a photographic impression. this technique is both cutting edge and ancient—hearkening back to a traditional method of printmaking known as lithography that utilized polished stones and rollers to create high quality images.
The seven concrete photographs are double sided, displaying diverse faces in varying degrees of smile-transformation. The 10’-8” square panels are rotated in the middle of the array, to allow for glimpses of the electrical equipment contained by the precast walls.