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Vantage Point: December Furniture + Architecture Pairing

November 29, 2021
Steven Holl Extension Nelson Atkins Museum

In 1933, an art museum opened in Kansas City, Missouri that welcomed people of “all groups, all races, all creeds.” In the spirit of this inclusivity, the trustees made free admission to Nelson-Atkins Museum part of the Strategic Plan in 1998, deepening its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The following year, they began planning for a major renovation and expansion, opening a competition that had over 35 entries.

Ignoring the competition brief, architects Steven Holl and Chris McVoy placed their building in a unique location on the property and put priceless art collections ‘underground.’ Their winning entry, completed in 2007, connects to the original museum under a green roof with five ‘lenses,’ which gives the appearance of several small structures on a hillside.

Holl begins each project by doing ideation, using watercolors—so it isn’t a surprise that much of the firm’s portfolio are museum projects. He is passionate about creating spaces that go beyond a place to showcase art.

“I feel, in a certain sense, that religion and philosophy cannot provide the meaning that we need in our lives today, whereas art can give us a window into our human needs. The art museum has become a social condenser, a place of gathering, a kind of 21st-century cathedral."


Holl is committed to sustainable building and site development. He feels it is fundamental to innovative and imaginative design. The Nelson-Atkins addition the buildings were constructed of all low or zero VOC materials. By using a green roof and double skin glass for the protruding ‘lenses’ with translucent insulation, the team was able to bring 75% of available sunlight yet minimize solar gain. The project won the AIA 2008 Institute Honor Award for Architecture.

The sculptural appeal of Lara Bohinc’s celestial Saturn Pouffes make them at home in a museum-the perfect pairing for the Nelson-Atkins. Designed with sustainability in mind, Bohinc Studio uses an amalgam of steel and brass which can be recycled many times without diminishing the composition, allowing the recycling process to be repeated.

Lara Bohinc’s design vocabulary spans effortlessly between furniture, objects, textiles, lighting, and jewelry—a fluid idea that finds its way into all her work.

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