While in KC over Thanksgiving I got a chance to revisit the Bloch building at the Nelson-Atkins fine art museum, this time at night and filled with art. That same night they were hosting a scupture park tour, which is the source of the little bags lighting our way.
The bags highlight something that I hadn't noticed before-- the total absence of streetlighting around the building. The diffuse (but bright) glow that the building itself emits is more than enough to see your way around, and has a wonderful effect upon the contained spaces of the sculpture park-- it becomes a series of comfortable and familiar outdoor rooms instead of threatening surplus space.
The entire effect of the museum, in fact, is very unimposing. One can (and I did) walk up the grass right to the channel glass, and rap your knuckles or slap your palm across the giant lantern. Kids were rolling down hills next to softly lit Moore bronzes. And then there's the fact that admission is free and one can enter the museum at any exterior door, promoting a kind of indoor-outdoor meandering that seems totally foreign to any previous museum experience. Rounding this all out is the fact that, despite the expected occasional slipshod detail or muffed corner, all of the points of human contact in this building-- the handrails, the doors, the floors and paving-- has been deeply considered and is a delight to regard and to touch.
I can't express how ecstatic I am that my hometown made the choice to build this building. This is easily the one of the most boundary-pushing new art museums I've seen, and it does it without grandiose scale, formal histrionics or an exceptional collection. This is, despite all appearences, not a magazine or coffee table museum. It is first and foremost a community asset.