Cheerful colors and whimsical artwork are probably not the first things that come to mind when one considers drug testing for professional and collegiate sports. In fact, according to Drug Free Sport president Frank Uryasz, one of the most frequent comments that first-time visitors to the company’s 12,000-square-foot Kansas City, Mo., headquarters make is, “This doesn’t look like a drug-testing facility.” His response? “Well, what do you think a drug-testing facility should look like?”

El Dorado took an existing brick community center building and turned it into a light-filled double-height space for office workers and lab technicians. The work areas are split into four pods—one for executive and administrative offices and one each for institutional clients, professional sports, and the NCAA. To maintain client privacy, none of the staff or files can cross-pollinate, so areas are separated by walls and conference rooms.

During demolition, the team resurrected a double barrel-vaulted ceiling and cut a skylight between the two truss systems to bring light into the center of the building. Clerestory windows in interior walls offer privacy but allow light to penetrate further into the space. A mechanical and electrical delivery system—painted with bright stripes of varying widths—runs through the space at single-story ceiling height. It doubles as a circulation spine, guiding people through the mazelike hallways. “It’s a space you can really explore,” says principal in charge Josh Shelton. “You turn a corner, and your eye starts to explore the whole volume.”

That exploration involves seeing all of the art in the building, the result of a collaboration with the Charlotte Street Foundation, a local nonprofit of which both Shelton and principal Dan Maginn are board members. Artist May Tveit developed a series of speech bubbles with icons and sayings on them; in the bathroom where samples are collected for drug testing, happy and sad faces foreshadow the two possible results. Another artist, James Woodfill, created light installations, including a canopy of lights on the patio outside the lunchroom and over-table fixtures in the conference rooms.

In a second phase of the project, which is nearly complete, El Dorado will fit out the reception lobby and install more artwork—including a psychedelic video installation by Barry Anderson that will make even the most sober of visitors feel trippy.

Project National Center for Drug Free Sport, Kansas City, Mo. Client A&F Real Estate Architect El Dorado—Josh Shelton (principal in charge); Sean Slattery (project architect); Brady Neely (design support and prototyping) M/E/P Engineer IDEA Structural Engineer Structural Engineering Associates Code Consulting Code Consultant Services Site-Specific Art Jim Woodfill, May Tveit General Contractor Turner Special Projects Size 12,000 square feet Completion Phase I, April 2007