From Hyatt to Rubble: an Architect's Perspective

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From Hyatt to Rubble: An Architect’s Perspective Daniel Demland Kaplan University PR499-01 Bachelor’s Capstone in Professional Studies Instructor: Debra Elliot March 5, 2012

Running Head: HYATT REGENCY COLLAPSE Introduction of Author


At the age of seventeen, in January 1978, I walked into an Architect’s office at the opening of my apprenticeship, staring at still six more months before my high school graduation, but there I was exactly where I had wanted to be since the seventh grade, my course charted and laid in. Little did I know that in three and a half short years, an event would occur that would shape me as the professional that I was eventually to become. Unbeknownst to me, that event started to unfold, at that very same time, a thousand miles away in Kansas City, Missouri. The design was wrapping up on the Hyatt Regency, with construction to begin in just a couple months, May of that year (Texas A & M, 2012). The Hyatt was to be Kansas City’s tallest building at the time, rising forty stories into the heavens. At its center was an atrium that was open, 117 feet by 146 feet, and 50 feet tall (over 4 stories) (Texas A & M, 2012, NBS, p. 1, #1.1) with three hovering skywalks as if they were floating above the atrium’s floor, suspended from the atrium’s roof. The second floor skywalk suspended under the fourth floor skywalk, and the third floor skywalk offset from the pair. This was to be an architectural wonder in the revitalized Kansas City downtown, rebounding from the ravages of recession. Overview Background / History Design of the Hyatt commenced in 1976 by Crown Center Redevelopment Corp., using PBNDML Architects, with the structural engineering firm of G.C.E. International, Inc., formerly known as Jack D. Gillum & Associates, Ltd., with owner Jack Gillum, and Project Engineer, Daniel Duncan. The project had a cost of $50 million, with an architectural fee of $1,650,000 (Administration Hearing, p. 7, #11), or about 3.3% of the



construction cost. That fee was below the expected standard 5% fee for architectural services (Guthrie, p. 507). The Structural engineer’s fee was $247,500 (Administration Hearing, p. 7, #11), or about 15% of the architectural fee. This structural engineering fee was well above the expected 1 – 2.5% of the architectural fee (Guthrie, p. 3) reflecting the complexity of this project. As an Architect myself, my conclusion is that the engineering fee would be reflective of the project’s intricacies, and that the engineering firm was not underpaid for their services. The Hyatt Regency was constructed under a relatively “new” delivery system, referred to as “fast track”. This is a system where the actual construction begins before the design of the project is completed, to allow the owner to capture savings on the rising cost of construction by shortening the overall project timeline (Administration Hearing, p. 68, #118, National Geographic, time mark 1:06). May 1978, construction commences on the Hyatt (Administration Hearing, p. 4, #5, National Geographic, time mark 00:47). During the construction of the Hyatt, in October 14, 1979, part of the atrium’s roof collapsed (Texas A & M, 2012, Administration Hearing, p. 13, #21). A second engineering firm was brought in to investigate the cause of that collapse (Administration Hearing, p. 13, #21). At that time, it was discovered that the structural drawings prepared by Gullim and Duncan did not have the expansion capabilities that the architectural drawings required (Administration Hearing, p. 77, #135 through p. 78, #137) for the atrium’s roof, but this had no effect on the roof collapse at that time. Construction was completed and the Hyatt opened for business in July of 1980 (Texas A & M, 2012, National Geographic, time mark 2:20). July 17, 1981, at 7:05 PM local time, supporting box beam channels failed allowing connecting rods to pull...
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