For 30 years, these four space-age looking sculptures have helped define KC’s skyline.

Like candles lit aflame on a birthday cake, the four pylons soaring into the sky atop Bartle Hall explode into space-age metal objets d’art.

Completed in 1994, the Bartle Hall pylons are an engineering necessity allowing for 388,800 square feet of column-free exhibit space to exist in Kansas City’s convention center. Bartle Hall, named after past KC mayor Harold Bartle, is said to be the largest column-free convention environment in the world.

The pylons are topped with an art installation by R.M. Fisher called Sky Stations, and in the 30 years that the aluminum sculptures have been teetering atop the pylons, they have become an unmistakable part of the city’s skyline.

The pylons stand out, of course, in what is a very innovative building to begin with. The convention space was dreamed up as a way to expand KC’s convention center, located in the heart of the city, where space is at a premium. It was built like a bridge over a six-lane freeway. Interstate 670 runs underneath the hall, and the 300-foot pylons support its roof.

Fisher says the sculptures were inspired by the 1930s Art Deco style that can be seen in the original municipal auditoriam’s chandeliers and decorative elements. Fisher wanted to create a feature that “would enhance what already was there, in terms of the architecture,” he said in an interview with KCUR. “When I went into that building, there are these magnificent lighting fixtures throughout the auditorium, Art Deco designs, extravagant, beautiful, optimistic.”

Those elements were his clue. He decided he would emulate them in sculpture and attach them to the tops of the pylons. Fisher worked with Zahner, a KC-based architectural metal and glass company, to produce the stainless steel and aluminum sculptures. The sculptures were lowered into place from a helicopter and a skycrane specifically engineered for heavy lifting.

“I think it was a once-in-a-lifetime project,” Fisher says. “And the building, too, is very special, the way it hovers over the highway, almost floating in space, as I hoped the Sky Stations would be.”

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