Steven Holl in Kansas City, Usa | The Plan
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Steven Holl in Kansas City, Usa

Steven Holl Architects

The civic or postcard view of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, now radically extended by Steven Holl Architects, is of five translucent boxes informally arrayed to one side of a stern institution dating from the 1930s. That’s the view presented to citizens of Kansas City, Missouri across elegantly tended terraces to the south of the original museum; a view that entices the more adventurous to climb and traverse the gaps between these new, enigmatic glass pavilions. Many visitors arrive however by automobile, descending into an underground garage beneath a shallow pool to the north. The roof of this garage’s upper parking tray is punctured by several dozen circular openings that admit light and splash reflections of water onto the concrete surfaces and parked cars below. This intervention, and a gold island in the pool above, is an artwork, One Sun/34 Moons, by the distinguished contemporary artist Walter De Maria. From the northerly plaza with its rectangular pool, or from the parking structure below, visitors access a largely subterranean foyer that stretches south, literally into the landscape, and ramps up into the largest of the five glazed protuberances. This the northernmost volume instigates an enfilade of galleries beneath its sibling pavilions; connects back into the original museum; and harbours an open, bridge-like passageway to a splendid reading room and executive offices in its upper reaches. The exterior of these pavilions is made primarily from an outer layer of glass planks and an inner skin of translucent, acid-etched glass. Emerging from the surrounding parkland, the vertical planks rise above roof level to meet the sky with a slim aluminium coping. Filled with translucent insulation, they are held forward of the concrete structure such that a narrow interstitial space wraps each pavilion. Thin horizontal channels signal these catwalks, and their changes of level, on the exterior. In the new lobby, light seeps in from on high, splashing...

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