King Louie was built in two phases; the original building was designed by Manuel Morris and Associates in 1948. There was a lot of green space in the area at the time! Overland Park didn't become a city until 1961. The 32 lane bowling alley was a rectangular white masonry building with a hovering red "thin-shell" canopy facing east. The block structure is still visible at the rear of the building. The original sign remains in this place today.
Thin shell canopies were a hallmark of the architect's early work. My friend(fellow blogger) and architect, Robert from MCLAUGHLINDESIGN said, "The tilted arch canopy formed an entry scoop towards the parking lot facing Metcalf Avenue and was the only thing that articulated this low windowless box. This was a unique biomorphic touch, which gave a nod to parabolic structures that were popular at that time." A modern sculpture and entry fountain further marked the entry area, but these features were obscured by the later ice skating rink addition.
In the mid-sixties, the owners, the Lerner brothers, contacted the original architect, Morris and his associate, Robert E. Sixta, to design an addition, with a billiards room, locker room and an ice skating rink.
Morris said regarding the addition, "we tried to stay away from the commercial building look, and tried to find warmth and a casual feel for a fun-time place." As you can see from the rendering below the entry has been moved to the south of the building and ample parking has been added, it appears that the current parking lot is larger than the footprint of the building, a testament to the days before home video games...we all went to King Louie!
The distinctive folded plate roof was designed to "hide the mass of what was under it," Morris added. You can see this same approach in the architect's work on the Jewish Community Center, at 94th and Wornall, KCMO. By sinking the large ice skating rink below grade, the architect was further able to disguise the mass of the addition relative to the low original building...you might recall, when it was built, the roof on the ice rink was covered with volcanic stone aggregate. The interior of the newer ice rink is highlighted by a dramatic free spanning wood strucure that frames the buildings folded roof. This structure prompted the rinks nickname "The Ice Chalet"...the skating rink floor, etc. was removed a few years ago.
This buiding is a rare remaining example of Googie architecture in Johnson County, Kansas. When asked about the style of the building the architect added, "there was definately a Frank Lloyd Wright influence in shapes, materials and the metal and stone spire at the entrance." The informed observer can see the influences of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West and the spire of Wright's Marin County Civic Center. The building in it's present form was completed in 1965. Let's hope it has a great future and survives the proposed "remaking" of the Metcalf corridor!