Community Architecture

Botanica’s Pavilion

The Challenge

In January 2014, Joyland owner Margaret Nelson Spear visited Marty Miller, executive director of Botanica. “Joyland will never be back,” she said with tears in her eyes, “and I want Botanica to have the merry-go-round.” To her, the 70-year-old carousel represented her family’s legacy: she met her husband Stan at Joyland and it’s where they raised their children. “This is what Stan would want,” she said, “so other families can enjoy the carousel.”

Spear asked for the carousel to be moved right away because it was being vandalized while in storage at the defunct amusement park. Miller welcomed the gift for Botanica — he recognized it as an important piece of nostalgia for Wichita’s older generation and an opportunity for the next generations to “make new memories.”

Botanica's Carousel Pavilion Case Study by WDM Architects-1

The Process

Accepting the donated carousel meant Botanica would need to build it a new home. They put out requests for proposals from architectural firms.

Client’s wish list:

  • A building large enough for the antique 40’ diameter Joyland Carousel

  • Include an event space

  • Feature an organ room for custom-built organ

  • Provide shaded exterior deck areas

  • Public restrooms

Awarded the work

Botanica’s board reviewed proposals and interviewed prospective architectural teams. Dan Wilson presented for WDM. Miller recalls that he “made it personal, he had a heart in it,” compared to other firms who were “all about the business and all about the building.”

Botanica selected WDM and Wilson became the Principal-in-Charge. He began collaborating with the project’s stakeholders, Miller in particular.

Questions arose about the site location, it had a water main running through it. The site could have a service entry, but not guest parking — a major disadvantage for an event venue. Important too, how would the building and the carousel relate to the gardens around it? Did it showcase the carousel to its best advantage?

Is this the best we could do?

“All my life, I brought people together to work towards a vision — it’s what architecture is all about.” — Dan Wilson, WDM Architects


A change of scope: Dreaming Big

This collaboration revealed the need for more than an appealing and functional building — the scope was too limited — the project needed a vision.

Botanica’s Carousel Pavilion Case Study By WDM Architects 2
Dan Wilson’s hand sketch of an adjusted site plan.

Design Charrettes

Botanica had engaged local artist Marlene Irvin to begin restoring the carousel horses. Each one had to be stripped down to the wood, any rot repaired and then newly painted. This work triggered fundraising opportunities to sponsor each horse.

Irvin and other artists were included in WDM’s workshops with Botanica’s Miller and his staff. Through these intense brainstorming sessions, or design charettes, the pavilion became the centerpiece of a bigger picture. Referring to the carousel in it’s pavilion, Miller coined the phrase “a jewel in a jewel box.” This vision statement became instrumental to inform the design moving forward.

For special projects like this, WDM’s Wilson recommends “to select an architect and possibly a contractor early in the vision development process.” Then communication and collaboration are key. “Keep all of the right people informed all of the time in order to get buy in and to get the best project for the budget,” says Wilson.

Location in the park

The pavillion location moved from its first proposed site to the south, integrated next to the Downing Children’s Garden. It would have the vantage point of a 5’ tall plinth above the base elevation providing an overlook into all the surrounding gardens.

The charettes discussed ideas for the area immediately around the pavilion: a whimsical garden was imagined that would be inviting to children. Many ideas focused on water and other natural elements. One artist, Connie Ernatt sketched these ideas for development.

Artist concepts

With the involvement of local artists, whimsical elements were added to the gardens surrounding the pavilion.

Andrew Jordan, landscape architect at WDM, found it “an interesting challenge to tie these separate ideas and concepts into a cohesive garden design.” Traffic flow, safety and security have been considerations.

Images credit: Connie Ernatt

Botanica’s Carousel Pavilion Case Study By WDM Architects 3

The Grand Lawn

A new outdoor event venue, the Grand Lawn stage and amphitheater was conceived. With the stage placed strategically, the Grand Lawn concerts can be viewed from the Carousel Pavilion, with the patio as a VIP area.

Moving the pavilion site location near Sim Park Drive opened the possiblity to change the park’s hard-to-find main entry to this new spot. Parking expansion and diverting Sim Park Drive further south were explored.

As the project’s scope grew, WDM’s role grew as well. WDM led meetings with the Board and Development committees. Stakeholder input was incorporated into design iterations, resulting in approval of concept and design.

The pavilion project had morphed from a single building into a master plan for the whole park.


Master plan expanded to include:

  • Create a new entry for Botanica on the southwest side of the park
  • Expand parking close to new entry
  • “The Koch Carousel Gardens” developed around the pavilion
  • Grand Lawn amphitheater for 2500-3000 guests

After shifting the pavilion south, a new entry for Botanica started to develop with expanded parking.

The Jewel Box: the Pavilion takes shape

The inspiration for the building to be a segmented round structure — an octagon — came from the carousel itself. It is made of 14 segments comprising a 40’ circle.

As a faceted building, the pavilion has multiple “front doors” — every side invites entry from surrounding attractions. Glass walls bring the garden views into the building and invite garden visitors to the merry-go-round. Sunlight pours through three glass segments of the octagonal roof in the day. At nighttime the carousel lights up the gardens around it.

In good weather, the glass walls can be opened with operable wall systems. Closed in harsher weather, they keep the inside of the building comfortable for guests.

Once an octagonal building was conceived, WDM created a 3D rendering for client approval.

The space is designed to be very active acoustically, which supports the custom-built organ and sound-system.


Other key features of the plan

  • Interior and exterior seating areas
  • A party room that also opens to the carousel
  • Organ display / work area
  • Public restrooms and storage
Botanica's Carousel Pavilion Case Study by WDM Architects-4
Left Image: Pavilion floor plan • Right Image: The new concept as faceted building, a 3D rendering of Botanica’s Carousel Pavilion

Fundraising and Volunteering

When Botanica received the carousel which required a new building, fundraising became a crucial first step for the project. The Pavilion project was privately funded.

Architectural renderings often become key tools in the client’s fundraising efforts. WDM did more than provide schematics, they led presentations, developed the fundraising book and designed features to be used in fundraising.

Sponsor opportunities were created for:

  • Naming the building

  • Naming the event stage and lawn

  • Each restored horse on the carousel

  • Names on stone pavers

  • Names on coins embedded in the floor

Botanica’s Carousel Pavilion Case Study By WDM Architects 5

Renovating the Carousel

Renovating the carousel itself took considerable volunteer involvement to make it operable with modern technology and ready for the public. In this case, Dan, the building’s architect found himself spearheading the volunteer effort.

Every piece of the machine had to be taken apart — not an easy task when “a lot was rusted together,” comments Dan. Each one needed cleaned, sometimes sandblasted, powder-coated or painted. All of the wood pieces were replaced. Dan and his volunteer team contributed thousands of hours over three years.

Read more about the volunteer efforts on the carousel here.

Botanica’s Carousel Pavilion Case Study By WDM Architects 6
Full plan vs. Phase I

Coming back to Reality

In 2017, WDM finished construction drawings for the project but funding was short. The project went on hold to allow fund-raising efforts to raise enough capital.

A year later, funding was still inadequate to proceed as planned. Botanica asked WDM to rework the project to reduce costs and explore a phased construction. Nearly 40% reduction of costs were achieved by changing or eliminating elements and building in phases.

“Projects like this tend to be very fluid in nature and seem to constantly change along the way.” — Dan Wilson, Principal Architect

Comparing full-scale plan to Phase I implementation

Swipe to see full table
Dreaming big Phase I Phase II: Later
Entire building fully climate controlled Party room climate-controlled, radiant heaters in carousel room A/C in carousel room
Glass roof with some shingled areas Shingled roof with 3 glass sections
Shade structures on patio areas No shade structures Shade structures
Building elevated on a stone plinth No plinth
Grand entry village with Loggia, Colonnade, Café and Artist’s Studio Entry with Loggia Colonnade, Café and Artist’s Studio
Grand Lawn amphitheater with stage Grand Lawn open park Stage
Parking expanded, Sim Drive moved Some parking More parking

Structural Details

Tom Nelson, project architect at WDM coordinated with Russ Redford, structural engineer at MKEC, on structural details. Nelson also worked with the glazier on specifications for the glass roof, confirming details for the supporting frames.

After four years in fundraising and planning, Botanica held a groundbreaking ceremony on October 1, 2018.

The site work on “basically a sand hill,” notes Jordan, landscape architect, was soon underway. Underbrush was cleared and topography graded to create the amphitheater bowl.

The general contractor, Conco Construction, chose Metal Arts to build the steel framework for the pavilion. Massive steel beams support the roof joists, and are visible from inside the building. Brackets extend the roof line and lend the pavilion a distinctive character.

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Metal frame of the Pavilion

Steel brackets from design to reality

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Finishes were purposefully subdued, chosen not to visually compete with the carousel.

The Finishing Touches

“This is the only project I’ve worked on where interiors were not supposed to stand out,” Says WDM interior designer, Angi Womeldorff. Finishes were chosen to coordinate with the existing facilities at the Downing Children’s Garden and consist of shades of gray. She says, “All eyes are to be on the carousel.”

As construction on the pavilion progressed, so did restoration efforts for the carousel. With a 40’ radius, the carousel is a large installation. The components needed to be assembled inside the pavilion while the building was still under construction.

The carousel’s original carnival motif of bright, primary colors in French-curve swooshes were embellished with botanical elements to tie into the garden theme of its new home, Botanica. Imagery of fireflies, butterflies and foliage were added as finishing touches.

Building on those elements, custom-created sconces decorate the exterior of the pavilion and tie into the carousel theme and colors. The party room has a mural of animals painted in carousel-style and an installation of interactive play elements.

Botanica’s Carousel Pavilion Case Study By WDM Architects 9
Restored carousel being assembled in the pavilion

Khicha Family Carousel Stats

  • 1949-2004 Joyland’s “The Merry-Go-Round”
  • 2014: Margaret Nelson Spear donated to Botanica
  • At Joyland, carousel was stored every winter
  • 40’ radius
  • 36 horses and 2 chariots
  • Volunteers spent 4 years to restore it
  • Manufactured by the Allan Herschell Company in 1949
  • Very rare: Less than 50 Allan Herschell carousels around the world still exist, and this is the last one of its kind

Driving Business and Building Community Pride

Botanica’s Carousel Pavilion can be considered a successful project in many ways, both in terms of driving business and in building community pride for Botanica and the City of Wichita.

As a symbol of Wichita’s culture and beauty, the Pavilion is iconic. It uniquely represents the past and connects with future generations.

The Carousel Pavilion debuted for 2019’s Illuminations, Botanica’s holiday light display held from Thanksgiving through New Years. Attendance at Illuminations comprises about one-third of the park’s annual traffic. 2019 saw the largest numbers yet, an 8% increase over the previous year. USA Today named Illuminations at Botanica one of the top 10 garden light displays in the nation for 2019.

The Associated General Contractors of America, Kansas Chapter, awarded the Construction Award of Excellence and the Judges Choice award in 2020 to WDM Architects and Conco Construction for the Botanica Carousel Pavilion.

“It’s the number one carousel building in the country,” claims Miller, a testament to client satisfaction. “Its success would not have been possible without the close client-architect relationship that developed over the course of the project.”

Award Winning Project

  • Botanica Carousel Pavilion
    Award of Excellence

    Associated General Contractors of America

  • Botanica Carousel Pavilion
    Judges Choices

    Associated General Contractors of America

Measure of Success

“The cool thing is, the gift of an antique carousel became the catalyst to transform and revitalize the entire park.” — Tom Nelson, WDM Architects

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Project Overview

Botanica’s annual attendance:


New glass-walled, faceted building:

9,000 s.f.




13 acres, total project

Botanica Carousel Pavilion Portfolio Project

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