Haven on Hospital Hill

Joey Hill

Open for use by all organizations, schools, UMKC departments and the Hospital Hill campus free of charge, the Diastole is a modern style building at 27th and Holmes.

Development on the house began in 1976 and it has become a site of beauty and tranquility. Designed by Dr. and Mrs. E. Gray Dimond, the Diastole, known by its formal title “The Mary Clark and E. Gray Dimond Scholars Centeris just that: a scholar’s center. Accessible for an array of programming and events, the Diastole is a relaxed setting where business and planning can be conducted. The site is also the residence of the Dimonds.

The name Diastole is a term from cardiology. It refers to the moment in which the heart is at rest after a heartbeat and before the next. It is in this rest that the heart relaxes and is filled with blood after the systole, where blood is pumped out. Dr. Dimond, who worked as a cardiologist himself, clearly saw this connection to the spirit of the scholar: to build a place where the heart can rest and be rejuvenated once again.

The devotion and care that went into the design of the building is clear from the moment one enters the building. There is a tremendous feeling of openness, utilizing skylights and windows along with the tiered design of the main section of the house to create an almost cascade-like flow of natural light through the building. The architecture, designed by Dr. Dimond, follows a modern scheme, and all rooms feel large and open. A natural flow can be felt when walking through the structure, as if designed not just with the resident in mind, but the visitor as well. One completely forgets this is a building on Holmes and suddenly is transported elsewhere.

Decorated ingeniously, the Diastole features an astonishing and diverse collection of art and architecture highlighting prints and paintings both contemporary and ancient acquired by the Dimonds though friends and trips around the world. Some of the most intriguing and intricate works are in the collection of hand-made woodcarvings placed around the building, many carved by Dr. Dimond himself. Complementing the angular structure of the house, the carvings are organic and lively.

Each and every room in the Diastole is unique while still exuding a feelingof contemplative comfort. The Piano Room features large glass doors along with a warm enclosure of couches around a modern working fireplace, adjacent to a pristine Steinway concert grand piano.

Adjacent to the Piano Room is the Sun Room, a long open room with an entire wall of glass windows curving upward. The Sun Room is styled with bamboo, exposed wood, tiling and earth tones, along with tall tropical plants. The Sun Room seems truly built for natural light. Also included are a dining area and a bar.

Leading up the stairs past a beautifully carved wooden multi-tiered table depicting a Buddha seated in a pond is a small grouping of offices featuring a collection of three-dimensional artworks, ranging from modernist to ancient. Overlooking all this is the Third Floor Library, an expansive and beautifully furnished area taking up the entire third floor of the building. The contrasting color scheme consists of  white walls and white carpeting dotted with a set of couches and seats of black leather and stained wood. The overall look of the library would be at risk of taking on an almost brutalist aesthetic if it weren’t for the additions of the organic woodcarvings and the handmade Mexican desk and chair set, designed by Mrs. Dimond. A wall of windows gives a beautiful view of the Hospital Hill campus and the city skyline.

For events where a more open theater atmosphere is needed, there is The Kiva, a rounded theater with tiered seating. Keeping to a modernist aesthetic, the walls are angular, putting the structure into a pentagonal-like shape. The space takes its name from the circular stone structures built and used by the Puebloans and features a fireplace and equipment for projections and oral presentations. There is also a doorway leading out to the Diastole’s garden which has a lush, beautiful arrangement of trees and topiary set with various modern bronze sculptures.

What could be considered one of the most revered rooms in the entire building, the Omar Khayyam Room is an incredible space to behold. Named after one of the most revered intellectual figures in history, a poet, mathematician, philosopher, scientist and astronomer, this room holds an enormous collection of his works including the “Rubaiyat,” a selection of his poems. The walls of the room are  decorated with framed, blown-up printings of pages from the “Rubaiyat” including illustrations.

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