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Growing Up Zahner
Fabricator expands manufacturing facility in Kansas City to meet demand.
The aluminum, glass, and concrete expansion at Zahner's facility in Kansas City.
Courtesy Crawford Architects
Zahner's "Paseo Beach Wall" creates horizontal movement along the facade.
[+ Click to enlarge.]

In early April, A. Zahner Company finished a 6,500-square-feet expansion of its manufacturing facility in Kansas City, Missouri. Begun in January 2010, the project was delayed in part because Zahner, which used its own labor force to fabricate parts of the structure in-house, was so busy. Stacey Jones, a partner with Kansas City and Sydney, Australia based Crawford Architects who designed the expansion, explained “William Zahner was delayed in finishing many of the details because once we created the platform, he was busy doing his production work.”

In 2009 Crawford started working with Zahner to develop a master plan for the company’s disjointed buildings. After the city vacated a street that ran between the firm’s two primary industrial and warehouse properties, the focus was to unite the complex in a campus setting. But before the master plan was even finished, the company jumped ahead with the expansion in order to relieve pressure on its backlog.

While many architecture firms have used Zahner for the fabrication of their structures, few have had the pleasure of being its client. “He gave us full artistic leave. He’s really the perfect fabricator,” said Jones. Gary Davis, director of marketing for Zahner, said, “‘It’s not possible’ is not a part of the Zahner way.”

The expansion utilizes the patented Zahner DT extrusion, which is the structural backing of many innovative Zahner facades. Instead of creating a skin on the building, the front edge of the DT system is rolled to create fins that produce horizontal movement while functioning as mullions. “It’s about surface manipulation to create an illusionary skin,” Jones said.

Davis explained, “We developed the envelope so that it would be an interesting yet competitive process.” Dubbed the “Paseo Beach Wall,” the expansion has stopped many passers-by in their tracks.

Made of aluminum, glass, and concrete, the expansion allows natural light to pour into the entire manufacturing space while lighting the inner city neighborhood at night in a soft glow. The reinvestment in the neighborhood directly east of Downtown Kansas City stands as a beacon of industrial revitalization for the region. L. William Zahner, the company’s CEO, said, “It allows potential clients to see firsthand what we can do.”

With the expansion now finished, Zahner and Crawford hope to finish the master plan for the campus. The first phase of the Zahner campus master plan is intended to be the continuation of the wall to the west along East 8th Street.

Gunnar Hand