Extension of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The concept that informs both proposed solutions is based upon a new building to the north that connects with the existing historical building volume by means of a base element. The new building is understood as a modern counterpart to the existing building. While the older building presents itself as static, massive and opaque, the new building has the effect of being slender, high and translucent. The base level both links and separates the two distinct buildings to the same degree. While belonging to the new building and provided with analogous materials, the base can nonetheless be read as an “intermediate building”, as a “landscape structure”.

While works of art from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries from China, Japan, America and Europe will continue to be exhibited in William Wight's historical 1930 edifice, "more contemporary" works are to be shown in the new building wing. This includes the collection of contemporary art, photography, African Art (as one of the inspirational sources of modern art), drawings and changing exhibitions.

The exhibition spaces for these objects of varying artistic nature are basically simple "containers", "rough-construction spaces" with respect to their spatial and materialistic formulation. They can be subdivided into smaller room components and be more completely finished. The coverings with fabrics on the walls and ceilings take up the principal of the textile-impregnated façade cladding and allow individual atmospheres to be generated for individual works and artistic disciplines.

The illumination of the exhibition spaces can either take place almost completely with artificial light (proposal A) or else with daylight (proposal B). Daylight would enter through side glass walls that are covered on the interior with delicate textiles, distributing diffuse light into the exhibition spaces. The façade side in every room thus serves as a large-scale light source. Exterior blinds controlled by light-sensitive sensors adjust the quantity of light that is allowed to enter the spaces. Glass panels, with fine metal cloth placed two feet before the building volume, form the outermost façade envelope. This reduces the incident light as well as building heat gain and serves, in addition, to protect the building from the rain.

The façade envelope made with sheets of textile-impregnated glass wraps around the entire building volume. The insulation panels found behind the glass are likewise kept in place and protected by a fine, fabric-like metal cloth. Seen from afar, the superimposition of the metal cloth generates delicate interferences—a moiré-effect that seemingly causes the façades to gently sway. A play of light arises that refers to the actual function of the grids in the glass: to regulate the light entering the building interior.

Covering the base level with a courser metal cloth placed before its façade and used as a climbing lattice for plants expands the cladding theme by one additional variation. Virginia creeper vines, wisteria and ivy climb about these nets.

In the future, visitors enter the museum through the new building wing. A connecting passerelle leads visitors from the street into the ground floor of the new building, where a view is immediately offered of the representative entrance façade of the historical building.

The existing building and the new building are linked in two ways: by a wide outdoor path that leads over the roof garden of the base level, and by an exhibition space in the base itself lit by three sunken courts. Offset stairs connects the various levels of the new building. They are each placed at the façades and allow visitors to orient themselves and peer outside. Thus, a path through the building is created that one can recall and easily find, while meandering throughout the edifice to connect all of its exhibition spaces.

Location Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Competition 1999

Competition Organzier The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, USA

Team G/G Urs Birchmeier, Arnault Biou, Caspar Bresch, Stefan Thommen, Roger Naegeli

Landscape Architecture Zulauf Seippel Schweingruber, Baden

Structural Engineer Aerni + Aerni, Zurich

Signage Trix Wetter, Zurich