Spring 2024

Garden Gathering Place

After much anticipation, the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens opens the stunning LongHouse Visitor Center.

Words by Lisa Waterman Gray


ree- and flower-lined paths, quiet ponds and streamways have long characterized Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, but last September, the city celebrated a shiny new addition to the landscape: the LongHouse Visitor Center. “We needed a major hub if we wanted to become a nationally ranked arboretum and botanical gardens, where we could do national-level programming and exhibits,” says the Arboretum's manager, Drew Ibarra. The 21,000-square-foot structure accommodates up to 500 people and 250 vehicles. DLR Group and Confluence assisted with the architecture and site planning, respectively. “We were all at the table helping to make decisions,” Drew says. “Parks and Recreation was heading up design and fundraising, and it took longer to generate fundraising than expected,” says Craig Serig, DLR Group's principal and design leader. “Prices were going up, too, so [the project] almost got shelved for a bit.”

Soaring ceilings, wall-spanning windows, polished concrete floors and curved walls with limestone accents punctuate the interior, where acoustical panels enhance overall sound quality. State-of-the-art media and sound equipment and a prep kitchen also enhance public and private events. 

The exterior incorporates organic shapes and forms, including Kansas limestone, wood beams that mimic leaf veining and exposed wood decking with long overhangs. Curved edges along the zinc-colored metal roof also imitate organic leaf shapes. 

“Our energy model on the building also confirmed that energy use is about half that of a comparable building,” Craig says.

Adjacent gardens, lawns and a reflecting pool encourage celebration and connection with nature. At night, warm golden light fills the building and spills across the landscape. “Our goal is always to invite you in, but then to get you outdoors to see the arboretum and garden features,” Drew says.

“We’ve been involved with the initial design team since 2015, and it has been very exciting,” adds Hank Moyers, associate principal at Confluence. “Native and hardscape materials were used throughout the project. 

“You [consider the] layout of the main building, the parking lot, patio spaces, the upper pond, lower pond and waterfall. We spent over 15 months of construction time making sure everything that was initially set forth came to life. It’s a legacy project for us.” 

The project also honors Moyers’ father’s volunteer efforts here, before his recent passing.

Craig says the LongHouse Visitor Center provides a new front door for the city at the Arboretum.

“I like the feel of the space with the daylight that filters through and the natural materials,” Craig adds. “It’s a great way to enter the gardens.” 



Architect: DLR Group, @dlr_group

Builder: McCownGordon Construction, @mccowngordon

Site Planning and Landscape Design: Confluence, @thinkconfluence

You may also like these articles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *