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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Steven Holl Architects

May 21, 2007 /

Kansas City, Missouri, USA

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Photo: Andy Ryan

The addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art runs along the eastern edge of the museum campus and provides a counterpoint to the original 1933 Beaux-Arts building.

The new museum, five distinct levels of expansive, light-filled galleries, will open to the public on June 9th, increasing the museum space by more than 70 percent.

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Photo: Andy Ryan

Facing the new entrance plaza and reflecting pool, designed in collaboration with Walter de Maria. the new bright and transparent glass lobby invites the public into the experiences of the Nelson-Atkins Museum. At night the glowing glass of the new lobby provides an inviting transparency announcing events and activities.

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Photo: Andy Ryan

The idea of complimentary contrast, the Stone and the Feather, drove our design for the addition to the classical stone temple and surrounding landscape. The addition is not an object: we envisioned a new paradigm fusing landscape and architecture. In contrast to the stone building, the new lightweight architecture of glass lenses is scattered about the landscape framing sculpture gardens.

/Steven Holl

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Photo: Andy Ryan

Holl and Chris McVoy refer to the five volumes as "lenses" because of the way they bring light into the galleries and subtly reshape one's views of the space. The volume's forms were driven in part by the idea of a parallax view, or the apparent displacement of an object caused by a change in the position from which it is viewed.

For example, the lens containing the lobby and the library begins on axis with the original museum, and then shifts slightly to lead one back towards the other new volumes.

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Photo: Andy Ryan

The five lenses emerge from the ground and create a dynamic interaction between architecture and landscape, inside and outside, translucence and opacity, tranquility and energy. The lenses' multiple layers of translucent glass gather, diffuse and refract light, at times materializing light like blocks of ice. During the day the lenses inject varying qualities of light into the galleries, while at night the sculpture garden glows with their internal light. A court dedicated to the Museum's significant holdings of Isamu Noguchi sculptures.

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Photo: Andy Ryan

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Photo: Andy Ryan

The sculpture garden continues up and over the gallery roofs, and provides sustainable green roofs to achieve high insulation and control storm water. The "meandering path" threaded between the lenses in the Sculpture Park has its sinuous complement in the open flow through the continuous level of galleries below.

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Photo: Andy Ryan

The new parking garage lit by special lenses in the bottom of the reflecting pool, is generously scaled for a direct entry into the new lobby.

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Photo: Andy Ryan

The galleries, organized in sequence to support the progression of the collections, gradually step down into the Park, and are punctuated by views into the landscape. As visitors move through the new addition, they will experience a flow between light, art, architecture and landscape.

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Photo: Andy Ryan

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Photo: Andy Ryan

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Photo: Andy Ryan

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Photo: Andy Ryan

The movement of the body as it crosses through overlapping perspectives, through the landscape and the free movement threaded between the light gathering lenses of the new addition are the elemental connections between ourselves and architecture.

/Steven Holl


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Image courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsWatercolor concept sketch

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Image courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsWaltercolor gallery sketch

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Image courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsModel
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Drawing courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsSite Plan


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Drawing courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsAxonometric Plan

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Drawing courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsGround Floor Plan
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Drawing courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsFirst Floor Plan
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Drawing courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsLongitudinal Section
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Drawing courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsCross Section

Facts about Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Total area:

165,000.00 ft2
Sculpture Park: 22 ac

Design architects:

Steven Holl & Chris McVoy

Project architects:

Martin Cox & Richard Tobias

Project team:

Gabriela Barman-Kraemer
Matthias Blass
Molly Blieden
Elsa Chryssochoides
Robert Edmonds
Simone Giostra
Annette Goderbauer
Mimi Hoang
Makram el-Kadi
Edward Lalonde
Li Hu
Justin Korhammer
Linda Lee
Fabian Llonch
Stephen O'Dell
Susi Sanchez
Irene Vogt
Urs Vogt
Christian Wassmann

Architect of Record:
Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell (BNIM)

General Contractor:

J. E. Dunn Construction

MEP Engineer:

Arup, New York City

Local architect:

Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell Architects

Structural engineer:

Guy Nordenson and Associates

Associate structural engineer:

Structural Engineering Associates

Mechanical engineer:

Ove Arup & Partners with W.L. Cassell Associates

Landscape architect(s):

Gould Evans and Olin Partnership

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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