The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, a Kansas City landmark and staple tourist attraction, designed by Gunnar Birkerts and completed in 1994, needed to be expanded to accommodate a new gourmet restaurant and event space. The museum selected IAA to evaluate the existing, small café and design an expansion that was thoughtful and expressive, yet sensitive to the building’s original design.
The existing exterior courtyard and sculpture garden transformed into an interior event/dining space by designing a glass roof which was supported on a steel structure that fit delicately within the existing building walls, creating a space with grand height and superb use of natural light. The existing kitchen was expanded to accommodate the increased seating capacity and event catering needs. True to Birkerts’ original design, IAA incorporated meticulously matched, board-formed concrete and flat-seam stainless steel shingles into the addition, creating a seamless integration with the existing building materials and forms. Rumor has it that the building expansion blended so well with the original, that when Birkerts himself visited the museum for their 15th anniversary, he did not notice the extended kitchen.