Light at the Museum

How a new wing made a Kansas City classic cutting edge

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., is a serene neoclassical building from 1933. A stately terraced lawn with a sculpture garden pours down from the grand south entrance. Nine years ago, when the museum's director, Marc Wilson, and his trustees decided it was time to expand, they began a search for architects. Eventually they whittled the list down to six. Nearly all the finalists proposed building on the parking lot at the building's rear, a location that wouldn't interfere with its grand façade. Only Steven Holl dared to suggest an addition that would cascade down the eastern edge...

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