• North America
  • Ethno-anthropological museums
  • 2000-2009

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Ceramic Gallery, The African Gallery, The American Indian Gallery, The Egyptian Gallery

Kansas City, US


The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, founded in 1933 to provide cultural enrichment for the growing community of Kansas City, is located in a large neoclassical building in the heart of the city. Expanding rapidly, it came to international attention thanks above all to its noteworthy collection of Asian art. In 1999, the museum decided to expand as the existing structure was no longer able to meet its exhibition needs nor its ambitious educational and cultural objectives. Thus a new structure - the Bloch Building – was constructed. Situated along the eastern side of the museum within the Kansas City Sculpture Park, the innovative, lean and luminous structure harmoniously contrasts with the original Beaux-Arts building. Five “lenses” constructed of layers of glass emerge from the ground and generate an engaging link between architecture, landscape and art.

Exhibition design: Steve Waterman, Rebecca Young, The Nelson-Atkins Museum Exhibition design Department, Kansas City; The Ceramic Gallery: George Sexton Associates, Washington, D.C.

The challenge

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art commissioned Goppion to make the display cabinets for a number of departments in collaboration with the museum’s own exhibition-design office. In the process, we developed a working method based on design-based synergy. The method was so successful in meeting the museum’s unique requirements and fostering innovative solutions to its challenges that we came to apply the collaborative model to our work with other institutions – and became famous in the industry for it. For the most part, the display cabinets were of large size and were closely integrated with the fabric of the building, which itself required the realization of major supporting structures.

The solution

Among the ingenious engineering solutions Goppion created is a large case in the African Gallery. The long glass display bonnet, set against the wall (6.5 m long by 2.5 m high), opens upwards on hinges with the assistance of gas pistons. This solution satisfied the museum’s request for a broad, uninterrupted glass display envelope with no visible supports or hardware, easily operable by staff.

Project data

Exhibition area: 4,575 m2; display units: 65; length of exhibit fronts: 235 m