2016 P/A Award Winner
One of Kansas City, Mo.’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art commissioned New York firm Weiss/Manfredi to study how to improve pedestrian connections to other local landmarks while working within the city’s car-centric layout. The result, a master plan entitled “Envisioning a Cultural Arts District,” forgoes the mid-20th century planning ideal of cultural oases, focusing instead on more strategic interventions (developed with extensive community input) that identify constraints while producing solutions that connect rather than separate.
Both topography and automobile infrastructure isolate the museum from its neighbors, which include several other arts institutions. The design team’s interventions create what they call a “cultural charm bracelet” that extends and improves pedestrian connections between these institutions and the city.
The plan establishes a loop of interventions across 442 acres, identifying destinations and extending major corridors through the site. “Cleaver Crossing,” a wide sculpture bridge with a community café at grade (which can be seen in the image at right), connects the lawn south of the Nelson-Atkins to the existing Theis Park, across multilane Cleaver Boulevard.
Theis Park is extended further south toward Brush Creek via a second pedestrian bridge, while wetland walkways allow better access to the creek itself. Other interventions include a terraced amphitheater, landscape features that cover underground parking and expanded storage for the museum, and an Art Shed at the eastern edge of the district that brings art into an adjacent residential neighborhood.
The plan mitigates overscaled roadways and unresolved topographic challenges with new and amplified pedestrian thoroughfares. These connections stitch together an array of cultural and environmental experiences that enhance and expand the already institutionally rich urban fabric east of downtown Kansas City. —Edward Keegan, AIA
Client/Owner: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Architect: Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism, New York . Marion Weiss, FAIA, Michael Manfredi, FAIA (design partners); Patrick Armacost (programming director); Joe Vessell, Todd Hoehn (project architects); Jeffrey Blocksidge, Scott Chung, Peter Stone, Barbara Wilson, Noah Levy, Allison Wicks, Beth Arnold, Seungwon Song, Isabella Marcotulli, Kao Onishi, Christine Hoff (team)
Size: 422 acres