The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Two Buildings, One Vision

Original Nelson-Atkins Building – 1933
Groundbreaking for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a neoclassic structure designed by Kansas City architects Wight and Wight, took place on July 16, 1930.

1931 Nelson-Atkins Building

The structure was made of warm buff limestone with a rosy cast, quarried in William Rockhill Nelson’s home state of Indiana. Only two years were needed to erect the building, but an additional year was required for completion of the interior. Bronze and marble finishes were of the highest quality, and the greatest care was taken in their installation. The 22 acres of grounds were also thoughtfully developed into a park with plantings and paths designed to draw visitors in from the area streets, neighborhoods and shops.

A great central hall over 40 feet tall with ceiling skylights formed the heart of the interior and was flanked on either side by two-story gallery wings. The east wing bore the name of the Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, and the remainder of the building was officially titled the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art. In 1983, on the occasion of the Museum’s 50th anniversary, the institution became known as The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Bloch Building – 2007
The same aspirations that created the original Nelson-Atkins building characterize the new Bloch Building. As the Nelson-Atkins entered the 21st century, Museum leaders embarked on an ambitious capital campaign to expand the Nelson-Atkins’ capacity to engage, educate and serve the community.

The Bloch Building at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The result of that vision was unveiled on June 9, 2007 with the opening of the Bloch Building, named in honor of Henry W. Bloch and his wife Marion. The slender, elongated extension connects to the eastern end of the 1933 building and runs 840 feet along the eastern edge of the Museum’s Sculpture Park.

The new building provides a delicate counterpoint to the Beaux-Arts Nelson-Atkins Building, respecting the earlier architecture and the community’s wishes to retain the integrity of the iconic silhouette. The Bloch Building’s subdued architectural statement is innovative and adds a strikingly contemporary note to the Museum campus.

Learn more about the Museum’s transformation project.

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