Nelsonatkins Museum Of Art Kansas City Missouri

Origins of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art date from the late 1800s with William Rockhill Nelson (18411915), a newspaper publisher and philanthropist, and Mary McAfee Atkins (1836-1911), a widowed teacher. Nelson led the effort to beautify the city with parks, boulevards, and an art museum, and Atkins was dedicated to the acquisition and display of fine art. Both left well-endowed trusts for this purpose. In 1927, by mutual consent of their trustees, the Nelson and Atkins funds were combined to create the financial basis for building a single world-class art museum (Ward and Fidler, 1993; Nelson-Atkins Museum, undated).

Construction of the original Nelson-Atkins building began in 1930 and was completed in 1933. Kansas City architects Wight and Wight designed a neoclassical beaux-arts structure built of Indiana limestone featuring massive ionic columns with interior marble and bronze finishes. The east wing was named the Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, and the rest of the building was called the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art. The museum was situated on the Nelson's baronial estate covering 22 acres (~9 ha). The building sits on a hilltop facing south toward the valley of Brush Creek, and the surrounding grounds were developed into a public park. By the mid-twentieth century, it already had developed a renowned reputation and was particularly noteworthy for its Asian collections of Chinese, Indian, and Japanese art as well as European and American paintings. It was, in addition, an iconic architectural symbol of Kansas City, Missouri (Figs. 18-5 and 18-6). The name of the whole was shortened to Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on its 50th anniversary in 1983.

During the 1990s, planning for a major addition began. This would be the first fundamental change to the museum in more than six decades, and it was intended to be a significant contribution to architecture as well as art display. The expansion dealt with every aspect of museum function—galleries, offices, library, receiving, storage, preparation, parking, cafe, and shop (Wood and Slegman, 2007). Original ideas for the expansion focused mainly on the northern side of the existing building, which was the main public entrance, so that the magnificent southerly view of the existing building and park would not be disturbed.

Six internationally famous architects were invited to submit design concepts in 1999. Most envisioned plans to develop the northern side of the existing building. The winning proposal from Steven Holl was radically different,

FIGURE 18-5 View across the south lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art looking north toward the southern facade of the original building with the downtown Kansas City skyline in the background. The shuttlecock sculptures suggest a giant badminton court in which the building represents the net. Right side of the scene is the site of the future Bloch building. Kite airphoto by JSA and J.T. Aber, November 1998.

FIGURE 18-5 View across the south lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art looking north toward the southern facade of the original building with the downtown Kansas City skyline in the background. The shuttlecock sculptures suggest a giant badminton court in which the building represents the net. Right side of the scene is the site of the future Bloch building. Kite airphoto by JSA and J.T. Aber, November 1998.

FIGURE 18-6 Close-up view of the southern facade of the Nelson-Atkins building showing the classic ionic columns of the south entrance. Kite airphoto by SWA and JSA, June 2008; Kansas City, Missouri, United States.

however. Holl was inspired by a Chinese silk handscroll in the museum's collection, The North Sea by Zhou Chen (1455-1536), which depicts a series of buildings tumbling down a secluded hillside next to the sea. Holl's design features a long, narrow, low building that extends southward from the eastern end of the existing Nelson-Atkins building. In Holl's description, the original building is stone, heavy, and inward, whereas the new building is feather, light, and outward (Wood and Slegman, 2007). Together they complement each other—stone and feather. This concept utilizes the park atmosphere and sculpture garden of the

FIGURE 18-7 New Bloch building under construction on the eastern side of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art campus. (A) Superwide-angle view northward with the downtown Kansas City skyline in the background. (B) Closer view of the new Bloch building. Five raised "lenses" are identified simply by number (1-5); these portions extend above ground in the completed structure. Helium-blimp airphotos by JSA, April 2005.

FIGURE 18-7 New Bloch building under construction on the eastern side of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art campus. (A) Superwide-angle view northward with the downtown Kansas City skyline in the background. (B) Closer view of the new Bloch building. Five raised "lenses" are identified simply by number (1-5); these portions extend above ground in the completed structure. Helium-blimp airphotos by JSA, April 2005.

museum campus without compromising the grand northern and southern facades of the original building.

Considered daring and innovative, Holl's design immediately generated substantial controversy because of its ultra-modern style that contrasts sharply with the traditional neoclassical appearance of the Nelson-Atkins building. As with other recent museum architectural disputes, such as the Pyramide du Louvre in the 1980s, the new building design sparked heated debate within the local community. Construction of the new building, named for Henry W. and Marion Bloch, moved forward in 2001, in spite of local controversy. Indeed debate intensified during construction, as it was quite difficult to appreciate on the ground how the new building would look when finished (Fig. 18-7).

The Bloch building was completed and opened to the public in 2007. The new building is 840 feet (256 m) long, and much of it lies below ground. Rising above ground are five so-called lenses clad in frosted glass panels (Fig. 18-8). The primary purpose of these lenses is to channel diffuse natural light into the interior display spaces via vaulted ceilings (Fig. 18-9). At night, the lenses glow with interior lighting. The Bloch building is set next to the outdoor sculpture garden, which overlaps onto the grassy roof of the building between lenses (Fig. 18-10).

In addition to the Bloch building, the expansion project includes a new underground parking garage on the northern side of the Nelson-Atkins building. The roof of the parking garage supports a large, shallow, water-filled reflecting pool designed by Walter de Maria called One Sun / 34 Moons (Fig. 18-11). The pool contains a gold-covered, bronze-and-steel slab that represents the sun and 34 circular lenses that

FIGURE 18-8 Overview of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with most of the finished Bloch building visible on the right side. Note the odd shape of each lens in the Bloch building. View toward north; kite airphoto by SWA and JSA, June 2008.

FIGURE 18-9 (A) Low-oblique view of Bloch building lenses 2-5. Asterisk (*) marks door in lens 4 that leads out to the sculpture park. (B) Interior view in lens 4 of the Bloch building showing the frosted glass wall and vaulted ceiling designed to pass diffuse light into the galleries. Door in background opens to sculpture park walkway shown in (A). Photos by JSA and SWA, June 2008.

FIGURE 18-9 (A) Low-oblique view of Bloch building lenses 2-5. Asterisk (*) marks door in lens 4 that leads out to the sculpture park. (B) Interior view in lens 4 of the Bloch building showing the frosted glass wall and vaulted ceiling designed to pass diffuse light into the galleries. Door in background opens to sculpture park walkway shown in (A). Photos by JSA and SWA, June 2008.

FIGURE 18-10 Close-up view of the sculpture park in vicinity of lenses 4 and 5. Sculptures: a, Turbo by Tony Cragg (bronze, 2001); b, Ferryman by Tony Cragg (bronze, 1997); c, Three Bowls by Ursula von Rydingsvard (cedar and graphite, 1990); and d, patio extension of the indoor Noguchi sculpture court. Kite airphoto by SWA and JSA, June 2008.

FIGURE 18-10 Close-up view of the sculpture park in vicinity of lenses 4 and 5. Sculptures: a, Turbo by Tony Cragg (bronze, 2001); b, Ferryman by Tony Cragg (bronze, 1997); c, Three Bowls by Ursula von Rydingsvard (cedar and graphite, 1990); and d, patio extension of the indoor Noguchi sculpture court. Kite airphoto by SWA and JSA, June 2008.

pass daylight through water into the garage underneath. At night, light from below illuminates the reflecting pool and roof plaza. While construction of the new parking garage and Bloch building went on, considerable renovation also took place throughout the interior and exterior of the original Nelson-Atkins building (Wood and Slegman, 2007). The exterior received cleaning and tuck-pointing of the limestone, a new roof was installed, and sculptures were rearranged (Fig. 18-12).

Holl envisioned the Bloch building as a feather, but others have likened its lenses as fingers of a hand rising out of the ground—lens 1 is the thumb and lenses 2-5 are the long fingers. This theme is seen in the painting, Art Part, by Elizabeth Murray displayed in lens 5 (Fig. 18-13). Much of the initial controversy about the museum expansion has diminished now, but lingering uncertainty continues. Many people remain skeptical. Upon leaving the new Bloch building and entering the original Nelson-Atkins building,

FIGURE 18-11 Northern side of the museum complex. One Sun / 34 Moons by Walter de Maria is the black square reflecting pool above the parking garage, upper left portion of view. Lens 1 of the Bloch building is under construction in right background. Roof of the Nelson-Atkins building is lower right, and a shuttlecock rests on the lawn in lower left corner of scene. Helium-blimp airphoto by JSA, April 2005.

FIGURE 18-11 Northern side of the museum complex. One Sun / 34 Moons by Walter de Maria is the black square reflecting pool above the parking garage, upper left portion of view. Lens 1 of the Bloch building is under construction in right background. Roof of the Nelson-Atkins building is lower right, and a shuttlecock rests on the lawn in lower left corner of scene. Helium-blimp airphoto by JSA, April 2005.

FIGURE 18-12 Renovated east sculpture terrace. Selected sculptures: (a) Peace on Earth by Jacques Lipchitz (bronze, 1969) and (b) Storage by Judith Shea (bronze, 1999). Kite airphoto by SWA and JSA, June 2008.

for example, one recent visitor was overheard to say, "now this is what an art gallery should look like.'' The art as well as the architecture are viewed by each person subjectively, of course, but in the long run the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art undoubtedly will maintain its world-class stature for both.

Architecture is considered one of the fine arts, and architectural photography is essential for demonstrating buildings, structures, and monuments (Dubois, 2007). During the process of museum expansion, SFAP provided a means to document the unfolding architectural drama from a low-height vantage that would be difficult to achieve by other methods. Tethered kites and a small helium blimp were utilized as lifting platforms depending on wind

FIGURE 18-13 Art Part by Elizabeth Murray (oil on 22 canvases, ~3 m wide, 1981). The theme of a long paintbrush resting on a stylized hand reflects the overall design and appearance of the Bloch building. Photo by JSA, June 2008.

conditions. In this urban setting, manned aircraft are not allowed to fly less than 1000 feet (300 m) above the ground, whereas all the photographs presented here were acquired from heights of less than 500 feet (150 m). This allows for both panoramic overviews (see Figs. 18-5, 18-7, and 18-8) as well as intimate close-up shots from unusual angles (see Figs. 18-6, 18-10 to 18-12). Such SFAP imagery uniquely illustrates and elaborates Holl's stone-and-feather concept for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

FIGURE 18-14 Digital orthophotograph of Lake Kahola vicinity, east-central Kansas, United States. The lake is approximately 2.5 km long and 0.5 km wide. At the resolution of this image, individual buildings and docks are barely visible. Derived from a conventional panchromatic airphoto; orthophoto dataset obtained from the Kansas Geological Survey; taken from Aber and Aber (2003, fig. 1).

FIGURE 18-14 Digital orthophotograph of Lake Kahola vicinity, east-central Kansas, United States. The lake is approximately 2.5 km long and 0.5 km wide. At the resolution of this image, individual buildings and docks are barely visible. Derived from a conventional panchromatic airphoto; orthophoto dataset obtained from the Kansas Geological Survey; taken from Aber and Aber (2003, fig. 1).

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