The Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex


Joplin, MO



Joplin’s Future Home for the Arts…

Connect2Culture and Spiva Center for the Arts have partnered to develop the Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex. This visual and performing arts center will educate, enlighten, and entertain while attracting more people and activities to downtown Joplin.

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The Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex (Cornell Complex) in Joplin, Missouri is designed as a regional, multi-form arts center serving the southwest Missouri four-state region. The 37,000 sf facility will be the home for Spiva Center for the Arts and the Connect2Culture performing arts group. Central to the scheme are state of the art galleries and a 450 seat hall that will serve spoken word, cinema, musical, comedy and even local opera uses. The hall is centrally located within the building to optimize acoustic isolation as well as ease of access from front and back of house support spaces. Inside, flexibility to re-configure the floor, seating, acoustics and proscenium opening allow the space to become a larger single flat floor space continuous with the stage that can host an even wider range of uses including art exhibits, trade shows, receptions and other special events. The building has been sited such that the stage and hall open to a naturally sloped event lawn to create an amphitheater for a full range of outdoor cinema and theater programming that can be used separately, or in conjunction, with indoor programming.

Multiple terraces on the south facade create a lively visual interplay with the site, while also creating a sense of sidewall boxes that with the enveloping landscape makes the outdoor space itself feel like an outdoor theater “room”. The landscape will be contoured and reinforced to serve as a common community flexible green space for additional programming or community events. The front and back of house support spaces for all art functions are shared in order to be more sustainable but also to enable the community to experience the full range of programming in both intentional and coincidental ways.

The arts center is designed to be as accessible as possible. Set within the verdant landscape of the region along Route 66, the site becomes an urban green evocative of the regional landscape. The building design is informed by the heritage of mining for lead and zinc in the region which gave rise to the founding of Joplin. Raised from the earth like a valuable mineral, the building mass is subtracted from to create a dynamic solid-void relationship at both the ground and sky, while evoking the cubist forms occurring naturally in lead and zinc. Multiple finishes and textures on the metal skin create a uniquely dynamic interplay with both ambient and direct natural light, not unlike that of lead and zinc when it has been brought up and into daylight.  

The construction budget required a rigorous approach to design that leverages each and every material and form to its fullest useful and expressive capacity. By infusing the project with the highest level of flexibility within this budget, the Cornell Complex will serve its community arts function sustainably for decades to come.  

Architect of Record: DLR Group
Associate Architect: CGA Architects