Taste & See KC: The Bloch Building

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art had its grand opening in 2007.

It was designed by award-winning architect Steven Holl, who was selected from a group of six finalists for the project.

Holl won the project after suggesting turning the parking lot into a reflection pool and building the parking garage below it, as well as coming up with the idea to build on the east side of the original structure rather than behind it.

His design, along with the planning and construction of the project, attracted some criticism.

Some said the modern style didn’t match the neoclassical architecture of the museum, but Holl intended it to be that way.

“This is a complimentary contrast. That’s heavy; this is light. That’s stone; this is like a feather. That’s got closed circulation; this has open circulation. That sits on the ground like an object; this goes into the ground like landscape. You know in every case you have these relationships and that’s why they work together,” Holl said when he spoke to 41 Action News in 2007.

He said in order for people to understand how the buildings work in concert with each other, they just needed to spend a little time there.

“It takes you at least two hours to even walk through it all, so you won’t get it unless you spend a couple of hours here. I mean it’s like, how can you instantly ‘get’ a symphony,” Holl said.

The Bloch Building consists of five interconnected buildings which allow visitors to see from one level to another. The glass much of the building is composed of allows natural, diffused light to enter and illuminate the galleries inside. Because of this, the buildings are often referred to as “lenses.” At night, the building lights up a nearby sculpture park.

The Bloch Building illuminates part of the Nelson-Atkins campus and sculpture garden when it is lit up at night. Photo courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The expansion made the Nelson-Atkins one of the ten largest encyclopedic art museums in the country.

The Bloch Building has won at least eight awards and has become a point of civic pride for Kansas City. Internationally, it’s been noted for its architectural importance.

The Nelson-Atkins put together an exhibit called “An Iconic Addition” to celebrate the building’s tenth anniversary.

Print this article Back to Top