The Bloch Building has been called a process unfolding, a magical response to the landscape and to the original building. The design by Steven Holl Architects was chosen for its unique solution to the Museum’s problem: how to provide more space without compromising the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.
Architecture as Landscape
Slender and elongated, the majority of the Bloch Building exists under ground along the east side of the original Nelson-Atkins Building. Rising from the building’s 840-foot expanse are five freestanding structures or “lenses” that emerge from the ground to create an undulating and varied interplay between architecture and landscape, especially within the Kansas City Sculpture Park.
Internally, the lenses create vaulted ceilings and cathedral-like spaces. Externally, they ascend out of the ground as sculptural interventions, playing with the landscape and engaging visitors both inside and out to partake in the architectural experience.
In between these glass lenses, and in some cases on top of them, a layer of grass creates a green roof where visitors can admire sculptures or relax with a picnic. This integration of landscape and architecture creates a building that is neither above nor below ground, but both at the same time.
Infused with Light
A large reflecting pool incorporating an installation by artist Walter De Maria graces the entry plaza. During the day natural light is directed through 34 circular lenses in the pool into the parking garage below. At night, light from the parking garage lifts up through the circles to illuminate the plaza.
The Bloch Building features a stunning lobby and soaring curved walls. The galleries’ floors drop in harmony with the slope of the south lawn. In opposition, as each gallery level steps down, the ceiling of that level peaks into a glass-enclosed lens that rises above the ground level.
By day, light is reflected into galleries below. At night, gallery lights will glow softly through the mix of translucent and transparent glass panels, like Japanese lanterns illuminating the Sculpture Park.
The Art of Our Time in the Building of Our Time
The Bloch Building will house the Museum’s collections of contemporary and African art and features new galleries for rotating exhibitions of photography.