The design reimagines the role of the modern convention center and supports the economic transformation of downtown Louisville.
Designed by EOP and HOK in collaboration with convention center specialist Donald Grinberg, FAIA, the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC) has reopened following a two-year, $207 million redevelopment.
The masonry-walled structure has been transformed into a place that celebrates Kentucky, invites business use and represents the new heart and soul of Louisville. The western half of the building was redesigned to include a glass facade and new public circulation spaces that reinforce its new community focus.
Other major updates include the addition of new main entrances on Fourth Street and a canopy with a color lighting display.
Dynamic vertical oak wood paneling divides prefunction gathering spaces from the ballroom and references local distilleries and Kentucky’s famous bourbon trade. Oak & Brew, a new hybrid morning and evening restaurant, has opened within the center, bringing local fare and bourbon to visitors.
“Louisville has a unique personality, and we wanted the design to focus on the visual and functional connection with the city,” said Rick Ekhoff, EOP design partner. “Its architecture has been inspired by Louisville and provides an identity that visitors will associate with the city.”
“Convention centers tend to be introverted building typologies—buildings that are inwardly-focused and turn away from the city. For KICC, we chose to create an urban extrovert,” said Peter Ruggiero, design principal for HOK in Chicago. “This is a building that celebrates its place in Louisville—a convention center that uses its activity and presence to contribute to the vitality of downtown.”
The center features a total of 200,125 square feet of exhibit space, a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, 52 meeting rooms and a 175-seat conference theater. Its new full-service kitchen can accommodate 15,000 meals per day.
“The new convention center highlights its civic role and presence with a distinctive colonnade and canopy that unify existing and new elements while a consolidated new front door acts as an inviting front porch for the city,” said Ruggiero.
“Convention centers are often difficult to navigate because of their large size and use by out-of-town guests,” added Richard Polk, AIA, EOP’s managing partner for the project. “One of the design challenges was to improve wayfinding, which was done by simplifying circulation paths and opening up interiors with visual connections to outdoor spaces.”