Liberty restored

January 01, 2002 |

When the Liberty Memorial reopens to the public in Kansas City, Mo., on Memorial Day following completion of a $40 million restoration and expansion project, the nation will regain the use of one of its largest and most architecturally significant structures honoring those who served in World War I (WWI).

Serious structural and material deterioration caused the Kansas City Department of Parks & Recreation to close the 76-year-old memorial in 1994. Kansas City-based architect ASAI Architecture designed the restoration and expansion of the memorial, whose trademark cylindrical tower rises 217 feet above the surrounding observation deck at its base.

Water infiltration was the primary cause of deterioration of the steel-reinforced concrete structure, says Greg Schultz, ASAI project manager. A new observation deck replaces the original 35,000-sq.-ft. deck, which contained no waterproofing protection and consisted of paving stone laid directly on top of a concrete deck.

"The coping stones didn't have any flashing, which allowed water to get into the wall," says Schultz. The water intrusion caused the shelf angles holding the stone to rust and expand, which then caused the stone to spall and crack.

The new deck will be composed of two layers, one for foot traffic wearability and one for water tightness. Precast concrete paving stones will be placed on a pedestal 12 inches to 18 inches above a 6-in. cast-in-place concrete slab. The slab will be waterproofed. High-density insulation will be placed between the pedestal pavers and the slab.

The pavers are similar in color to the originals, but slightly different in texture to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

The tower, which is separate from the observation deck, will be refurbished. New Indiana limestone will be installed at the tower's base and the limestone above the base will be cleaned. A metal spiral staircase will be replaced as will the elevator that transports patrons to the top of the tower. At the top of the tower, a boiler that produces steam, which is lighted to resemble a flame, will be restored. The steam also will be used to heat the building.

The restoration includes two existing 46-ft.-wide-by-93-ft.-long museum buildings that flank the tower at the observation deck level. Scott Vath, vice president of J.E. Dunn Construction, the project's Kansas City.-based general contractor, says that murals inside the museums require the buildings to be kept at a constant humidity and heat range throughout the project. Two limestone-clad sphinxes at the memorial's south approach also will be restored.

Adaptive reconstruction

Though the project is "first and foremost a restoration project," says Mark McHenry, deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, it also falls into the category of adaptive reconstruction.

In addition to bringing the building up to code and accommodating ADA requirements, the memorial, which is located on a bluff, will capture the existing space beneath the observation deck, adding 105,000 square feet. "We're creating useful space from the dead space underneath the deck," says McHenry.

"Demolishing as much of the structure as we did while keeping specific elements of the memorial has been our biggest challenge," says Vath. "For instance, we completely removed the observation deck, but we had to leave the two museum buildings intact."

The expansion of the south elevation of the memorial have been met with protest by some local architectural preservationists. But memorial officials say the modifications are being conducted in compliance with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

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