April 2024

Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art serves as a testament to the enduring partnership between JE Dunn Construction and one of Kansas City’s cultural treasures.

It all began in the early 2000s, when JE Dunn and the Nelson-Atkins embarked on a major building campaign, spanning several years until 2007. The campaign encompassed a multitude of projects, each contributing to the transformation of the museum, including the construction of a parking garage with a captivating reflecting pool on the north side, and the addition of the iconic Bloch Building, a modern marvel seamlessly integrated with the museum’s historic architecture. These endeavors, coupled with extensive renovations to the existing Nelson-Atkins structure and a comprehensive overhaul of the central plant, represented a monumental investment exceeding $100 million.

In 2015, JE Dunn’s collaboration with the museum reached new heights with the renovation of the Bloch Gallery, situated on the first floor of the Nelson-Atkins building’s northeast corner. The renovation was not merely about updating a space in the museum. Henry Bloch, a distinguished figure in Kansas City and a devoted art collector, generously donated a stunning collection of impressionist artworks to the museum. His contribution sparked the need for a renovation, costing around $12 million, to ensure that these priceless pieces were showcased in a fitting environment.

Renovating the nearly century-old Nelson-Atkins building presented its own set of challenges, said JE Dunn Vice President Jim Coulter. Yet, JE Dunn’s commitment to excellence and innovation shone through. The team diligently addressed the building’s envelope, employing modern technologies to enhance its functionality while preserving its historic charm. From new windows to structural repairs, every detail was meticulously executed to uphold the museum’s legacy for future generations.

Even amidst the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, JE Dunn continued to leave its mark on the museum’s landscape. The replacement of granite pavers with decorative colored concrete on the North Plaza Drive not only improved aesthetics but also introduced a hydronic snow melt system, ensuring hassle-free maintenance during winter months—a testament to JE Dunn’s dedication to both form and function.

Yet, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of JE Dunn’s work lies beyond bricks and mortar. It’s in the meticulous care and consideration given to the museum’s true treasures—the artworks themselves.

“Hospitals exist because of the patients, and the museum exists because of the art,” Coulter said. “It’s not about the building. Instead, it’s about the art inside and the experience that people get when visiting the museum.”

Understanding that the museum exists to safeguard and showcase these priceless pieces, JE Dunn approached every project with reverence and respect. From employing cutting-edge technologies and monitoring environmental conditions to ensuring minimal disruption to ongoing exhibitions, every decision was guided by a deep appreciation for the art and its significance.

Through their work with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, JE Dunn has not only built structures—they have woven themselves into the fabric of Kansas City’s landscape, leaving an indelible mark for generations to come.