Steven Holl's Bloch Building was completed over three years ago, but even now the beautiful extension to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City continues to garner significant acclaim. The luminous energy-efficient modern art museum boasts a green roof garden and a beautiful translucent facade that floods the interior spaces with light throughout the day. The extension serves to compliment the existing buildings by bringing a modern green vision to the historic museum.
The winner of the 2008 AIA Institute Honor Award along with a slew of other awards and recognitions (even one from Vanity Fair), the Bloch Building has helped put Steven Holl on the map as well as the Kansas City cultural scene. Designed to create contrast, the project was envisioned as a “Feather to the Stone” of the original museum. Light, airy, open and outwardly directed, the extension consists of a series of five “light lenses” that feature open floor plans, views of the surrounding sculpture gardens, and light-filled spaces. The light lenses are made of translucent glass and serve to gather, diffuse and refract light into the museum during the day, providing a naturally daylit interior. At night, the interior lighting shines out of the lenses to illuminate the museum like a glowing beacon.
Additional green design strategies include the extension of the sculpture garden onto the roof to create a green roof for improved insulation and stormwater infiltration, as well as a structural concept created by Holl called the “Breathing Ts”, which serve as ducts for light as well as ventilation. During the winter, air is warmed and directed into rooms, and during the summer hot air is exhausted out. A computer precisely controls the interior climate for individual exhibits, and a translucent insulating material embedded in the glass cavities of the Ts helps control the light. The building itself is a work of art that matches the caliber of the exhibits held inside.