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Kansas City, MO, United States, 1999-June 9, 2007

PROGRAM: museum addition and renovation
CLIENT: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
SIZE: 165,000 sf
STATUS: completed

This competition winning addition is composed of five interconnected structures as opposed to a single massive expansion. Traversing from the existing building across its sculpture park, the five built "lenses" form new spaces and angles of vision. From the movement through the landscape and threaded between the light openings, exhilarating new experiences of the existing Museum will be formed. Circulation and exhibition merge as one can look from one level to another, from inside to outside. The "meandering" path in the sculpture garden above has its sinuous compliment in open flow through the continuous level of new galleries. Glass lenses bring different qualities of light to the galleries while the sculpture garden's pathways wind through them.
"Steven Holl has always emphasized the perceptual experience of his architecture and the transcendental role played by light in this experience. He is one of the contemporary architects who has paid closest attention to this essential component and handled it more carefully."
-El Croquis
"Unlike many modern additions to historic museums, Steven Holl's 21st-century companion doesn't overwhelm the 1933 Beaux Arts original. His string of iridescent frosted-glass boxes pop out of the grassy lawn-they are absolutely magical at dusk when they begin to glow-and filter sunlight into a series of dramatic underground galleries."
-Karrie Jacobs, Travel and Leisure
'Steven Holl's expansion of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art infuses Modernism into the grassy landscape of the site, contrasting the 1933 Classical structure with five glass-lens boxes that gather, diffuse, and refract light into new gallery spaces. (...) The museum extension features multiple entry points, an attempt to open the world of art inside to the larger community.'
-Architectural Record
'What Steven Holl and his design partner Chris McVoy have achieved here is a dramatic transformation that manages to reconcile what in lesser hands might have been irreconcilable. They created an utterly 21st century addition taht is different in every way to the original structure yet in no way detracts from it. (...) The museum authorities are understandably thrilled with this amazing transformation. They feel Holl and his team arrived at a brilliant solution that completely fulfilled the requirements of the museum's strategic plan and its architectural programme while responding creatively to the injunctions of the community.'
-Des O'Sullivan, Irish Examiner
'A fantastic new addition to the museum is the much-acclaimed Bloch Building, which opened last summer. Designed by the architect Steven Holl, it comprises five translucent glass structures. By day, they provide an ethereal ambience in which to view the contemporary art on show and, by night, glow like Japanese lanterns adjacent to the main museum.'
-Elizabeth Fullerton, Financial Times
'The most highly touted and maybe the best US building of the year was the astonishing Bloch Building, a wing of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Architect Steven Holl (...) added a series of glassy galleries that spill down a green hillside, each gallery looking like an iceberg heaving itself up out of the ground. Because the museum is free of charge, visitors can move in and out at will, going between the indoor galleries and the outdoor sculpture gardens.'
-Robert Campbell, Boston Globe
'Adding a new wing to a neoclassical museum, Holl devised a spectacular update on classicism: an irregular series of volumes that cascade down the museum's lawn and glow from within. The effect against the nighttime sky is nothing short of magical.'
-Richard Lacayo, Time
'Steven Holl Architects demonstrated outstanding dedication and commitment to the campus transformation project at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. With your hard work and concentration on excellence, our partnership to create a visitor experience that visually delights and provides connection to the art is a success. The single-mindedness and enthusiasm demonstrated by Steven Holl Architects are praised and commended by every Trustee, staff member and volunteer. The tributes to your results have resonated around the world'.
-Board of Trustees for Nelson Gallery Foundation, Nelson Atkins Museum, June 18, 2007
'With the exception of Steven Holl's extension to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo., which opened to raves in the spring, no building by a prominent architect to debut this year escaped critical complaint or public ambivalence altogether.'
-Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times
'Steven Holl Architects merges architecture, art and landscape into a unified experience for the Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Indeed, the integration of art, landscape, and architecture creates a dynamic whole where visitors - including this observer - are bowled over by the experience of meandering through and around the exterior and interior spaces. As the museumgoer walks through the Bloch Building, he or she is aware of the changing spaces, elongated and flowing into one another'.
-Suzanne Stephens, Architectural Record, July, 2007
'By subtly interweaving his building with the museum's historic fabric and the surrounding landscape, he has produced a work of haunting power. For the art world, the addition, known as the Bloch Building, should reaffirm that art and architecture can happily coexist. (...) He has created a building that sensitizes visitors to the world around them. It's an approach that should be studied by anyone who sets out to design a museum from this point forward. '
-Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times, June 6, 2007
'But it is on the inside that Holl shows his chops, using the most elusive and difficult materials: space and light. He has designed shape-shifting spaces that flow, like an unfolding narrative, down ramps and graceful steps, with a canted wall here, a curve in the high ceiling there, as a visitor moves through the galleries for contemporary art, African art and photography. Light spills in at unexpected moments, from above or from big panes of glass overlooking the garden.'
-Cathleen McGuigan, Newsweek
'Der Architekt Steven Holl hat den Erweiterungsbau des Nelson-Atkins-Museums in Kansas City zum skulpturalen Ereignis werden lassen'.
-Jorg Hantzschel, Suddeutche Zeitung, June 16, 2007
'Nighttime is the best time to see the new addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; that's when it runs down the side of the Kansas City Sculpture Park like a string of paper lanterns following the contours of a suburban lawn. That's when it shows why, according to Time magazine, it's the "Most Anticipated Building" of 2007.'
-Judith H. Dobrzynski, Wall Street Journal
'() The museum expects annual attendance to grow from 350,000 to 450,000 () Mr. Wilson feels the shakeup is enough to induce repeat attendance, which he says is the standard by which the success of the museum's transformation will be measured.'
-Jason Edward Kaufman, The Art Newspaper
'Lying along the eastern boundary of the site, the Bloch Building's luminescent vanes shift the entry court off axis in concert with Walter De Maria's reflecting pool, and then whisper by the stone to flicker and taper into the southern lawn'.
-Michael Caldwell, Domus 904, June, 2007
'A study in soft light and sharp contrasts, Steven Holl's Bloch Building transforms the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, from a respected regional institution into a focal point of worldwide attention. The dialogue between radically different yet interdependent buildings creates a contrast that heightens the features of each. Holl's design answers stone with glass, solidity with ethereality, ordered sequentiality with improvisational fluidity'.
-Bill Millard, Icon, May, 2007
'The building is not just Holl's finest by far, but also one of the best of the last generation. Holl has produced as striking and inventive a piece of architectural form (...) and yet it is a serene and exhilarating place in which to view art'.
-Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, April 30, 2007
'What Holl's buildings have in common is that all experiment with materials, with spatial arrangements and with ways of using light to delineate forms; the results are unexpected and compelling'.
-Fred Bernstein, Art + Auction, April, 2007
'The white plenums punctuating the lawn are crucial to this ordered design, something that both the architect and client believe is a significant departure for a museum. Visitors to the spaces below will be able to see the changing patterns and luminosity of the sky.'
-Beatrice Galilee, Icon
'Steven Holl sheds light on his new subterranean marvel (...). The evocative shapes, which the London Telegraph referred to as "the building blocks of America's best architect," could pass for luminous icebergs. (Like some kind of light D.J., Holl is a master of natural illumination.) The attention he is getting for the museum, set to open in June, is stirring up rumors of even bigger awards - and of new projects that could, with any luck, light up the Manhattan skyline.'
-Owen Phillips, Men's Vogue
'Now that architecture is practically as glamorously daredevil as bullfighting, every year has its Most Anticipated Building. (...) This year there's just one: the Bloch Building, Steven Holl's addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., which opens in June. It's going to be the year's most visible building on the strength of being the building that's not there. Holl gave the Nelson-Atkins 165,000 sq. ft. of new space by burying the space underground. (...) What appears aboveground are five irregular glass pavilions, transparent in some parts and translucent in others, which serve as vaulted glass ceilings for the galleries below while carrying out a kind of photon hydraulics. During the day they'll pour (diffused) light into the galleries. After dark, lit from within, they'll pump it back against the night sky. Call them lenses - Holl's term - or lanterns. They're illuminating'.
-Richard Lacayo, Time, March 19, 2007
'A breathtakingly simple new museum extension puts Steven Holl in a class of his own. (...) The new projects have a vigorous, intelligent concept, but also a simplicity of form which recalls much of Holl's best work from the past () Holl's rising reputation has now brought a string of commissions for new projects outside America, including a marine building in Beirut, an arts centre in Denmark and an oceanic museum in Biarritz.'
-Dominic Bradbury, Telegraph UK
'The expansion of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art fuses architecture with landscape to create an experiential architecture that unfolds for visitors as it is perceived through each individual's movement through space and time. () The threaded movement between light-gathering lenses of the new addition weaves the new building with the landscape in a fluid dynamism based on a sensitive relationship to its context.'
-GA Document 96 [Japan]

Progressive Architecture Award, USA, 2000
The International Parking Institute, Award of Excellence for Best Design of a Parking Facility with Fewer than 800 Spaces, USA, 2004
LEAF NEW BUILT AWARD, United Kingdom, 2007

– Steven Holl Architects
Steven Holl, Chris McVoy (design architect)
Chris McVoy (partner in charge)
Martin Cox, Richard Tobias (project architect)
Masao Akiyoshi, Gabriela Barman-Kraemer, Matthias Blass, Molly Blieden, Elissavet 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, Irene Vogt, Urs Vogt, Christian Wassmann (project team)

local architect
– BNIM Architects

structural engineer
– Guy Nordenson and Associates

associate structural engineer
– Structural Engineering Associates

mechanical engineer
– Ove Arup & Partners
– W.L. Cassell & Associates

glass consultant
– R.A. Heintges & Associates

lighting consultant
– Renfro Design Group

landscape architect
– Gould Evans Goodman Associates

– Walter De Maria
Walter De Maria
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