On January 25, 1955 brothers Henry and Richard Bloch created a company in Kansas City that specialized exclusively in income tax return preparation. The company was named H&R Block. (The brothers changed the spelling to'Block' to avoid confusion with spelling and pronunciation.) Today, H&R Block is a multi-national, full-service, financial company with more then 12,500 locations. Every year H&R Block assists nearly 19.5 million people with their financial needs.

The new H&R Block World Headquarters encompasses one full city block in the heart of downtown Kansas City. It was the cornerstone of a multi-billion dollar downtown revitalization effort. The building is comprised of a 17-story elliptical office building and a 3-story, low-rise building that contains a theater, cafeteria, and retail space. A 6-story, underground parking structure is situated below the building.

The lower two levels of the office building and the entire exterior skin on the low-rise are clad with Italian Travertine. Over 20,000 man-hours were spent scaffolding and installing the 10,318 pieces of stone. Each stone is 3 cm thick and measures 30-inches by 30-inches. There are also 20-soffit and 25-cap pieces, weighing over 1,500 pounds each. Two different colors of travertine are used, along with honed and split finishes. The vertical exterior stone is unfilled to accentuate the natural feel; the stone was set to the inside in lieu of the outside. This allowed for the areas of split-face stone to have jagged ins/outs, as if created by nature.

The H&R Block stone project had its share of challenges both typical and unique to a project of its size. The fact that the stone came from an overseas supplier meant that a tremendous amount of planning had to go into scheduling the production, shipping and delivery. The tight site conditions in conjunction with the development of surrounding streets and blocks made site delivery, staging and stocking difficult. A unique challenge to this project came in the form of the high-rise itself as there were no gridlines due to its elliptical shape. Instead, chords, placed at 5-foot centers, were used to layout the entire building. String lines, lasers and eye levels were all incorporated in the layout and placement of every piece of stone. Also, special attention was given to the kerfs in each stone, because the panels were all made straight but had to be placed on the building radius.

The mix of stone and glass facades has created a building that is both impressive and inviting to H&R Block employees and visitors. In the revitalization of downtown Kansas City, the H&R Block World Headquarters stands as a centerpiece and an impressive testament to the beauty of natural stone and the craftsmanship of everyone involved.

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Project of the Year Category: Eiteljorg Museum

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