Architect Steven Holl is no stranger to remarkably lit gallery spaces, and his latest addition to the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri is a notable display of his talents in using architectural daylighting to create stunning interior spaces. Free to the public, the Bloch Building uses every facet of natural light to a variety of gallery spaces bringing perfectly balanced illumination to both a Noguchi Sculpture exhibit and another gallery with historic pictures that requires a low-light atmosphere. The light in the Bloch building, whose walls consist of large amounts of translucent glass, have been perfectly calibrated along with the use of fluorescents to account for the varying luminosity from season to season, and even from day to night. We were lucky enough to get a private viewing of the museum prior to its June opening to the public.
The outside appearance of the Bloch Building does not prepare you for the space you experience once inside. The large volumes of the building pierce the landscape of the Country Club Plaza district, following the line of the hillside like a little child whose full hands couldn’t carry their set of building blocks, dropping a few along the way. In the interior, visitors will have a hard time figuring out which glowing box they are in, with the differing grade changes and curved coves weaving through gallery spaces.
Fluttering T walls, conceived by Steven Holl Architects are dually functional, serving as the main structural thrust for each illuminated block, while also deflecting the natural light downwards into the interior spaces. Steven Holl Architect’s senior partner worked closely with museum hired Richard Renfro, of Renfro Design Group (light specialists) making sure the light levels in each gallery space (and even the underground parking garage) were calculated to the recommended levels to best display the art while preserving it. Even with the overcast winter sky during our tour, the spaces were entirely lit through the day by natural light. It almost excuses the fact that the museum is illuminated like lanterns during the night, making the surrounding sculpture park equally as enjoyable any time of day. Almost… + Steven Holl Architects + Nelson Atkins Museum