Great Glass Buildings of the World: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art – Bloch Building: Kansas City
Our love and appreciation of glass is no secret. Far from being cold and restrictive, glass, in the hands of clever designers and architects, can turn a building into a warm, glowing work of art that changes with the landscape. Our virtual tour of the world’s greatest glass structures has hopefully gone some way to show what an amazing resource glass is and how it’s been used to breath-taking effect.
Today we leave Japan and head back to the United States to Kansas City and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Expanding into the Future
Back in 1999, management of the museum decided to expand the classical style central building, complete with Grecian columns, to allow for 55% more space to exhibit and educate. Curators and management of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art invited architects to submit plans for the extension. The competition brought forward many different architectural designs and styles but the overall winner for the commission was New York based Steven Holl Architects.
Steven Holl’s design wowed the panel on paper just as much as it wows visitors to the museum today. The building is not really a building but a series of five irregular shaped glass buildings snaking down the hill from the classical main building that dates back to 1933. The glass boxes, or ‘lenses’ as Holl describes them are linked together underground.
The five buildings are translucent, glazed completely in frosted glass. During the day they’re said to look like ice sculptures scattered on the museum’s garden lawn and at night they glow like lanterns giving them a completely different aspect. They change with the seasons and the weather too so never really look the same.
The buildings opened in 2007 and were received with much critical appraisal. The mix of the new and the old, in such a setting reminds us of the glass pyramid at The Louvre inParis, which we discussed weeks ago.
Cleaning the Lenses
The glass buildings or lenses are made of multiple layers of glass and differ greatly in size and shape, from the rectangular to the triangular. Abseiling is a great solution for awkwardly shaped buildings as trained abseil teams can reach just about every nook and cranny so long as they have a safe fixed point to abseil from. The lenses are made completely of glass so the fixed point could be difficult to find, and nerve wracking too given the iconic status of these buildings! Therefore, we’d suggest water fed poles to clean these beautiful, if not irregular glass buildings. In our opinion irregular is good in a museum of art – who wants to view the ordinary when you visit a bastion of art and imagination?!
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