Video: Existential Sensitivity / Jeffrey Kipnis and Steven Holl

In this fascinating conversation, critic and theorist Jeffrey Kipnis and architect Steven Holl discuss modern architecture, from competitions to cantilevers, courtesy of our friends at 32BNY.

They begin with the role of high-brow architectural theory, ironically with Kipnis labeling it “a practice for a very small audience”, and questioning whether there is any benefit in increasing that audience through education. The conversation meanders its way to a discussion of structure, where Holl accuses Kipnis of having no interest in structure – to which Kipnis swiftly responds that current architecture is constrained in its approach to structure. “We keep building youth and rectitude in the name of structure” he says, an example being “the last of the great macho tricks” – the cantilevers on Holl’s Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums.

However, in a way Holl gets the last laugh at the end of the video when he displays the changes he made to his Ecocity building as the result of Kipnis’s criticism. Holl takes us back to the starting point of the discussion and, in opposition to Kipnis’s argument, demonstrates the virtues of critical discourse in informing his own design.

Cite: Stott, Rory. "Video: Existential Sensitivity / Jeffrey Kipnis and Steven Holl" 24 May 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • ge_d

    And this why Steven Holl is never going to win a pritzker prize.

  • sarnis

    who cares about these issues?
    frivolity and more frivolity

  • Matt

    Having had him on juries, it was no surprise that professional talker and hanger-on Jeffrey Kipnis gets in 95% of the words here. Whatever you think of Steven Holl, he has a long and rich body of work that would merit him actually saying a few things in this conversation. Instead, Kipnis railroads him. No surprise. Kipnis has made his career essentially out of talking over others is fairly esoteric language.

  • Chris

    So… What is Kipnis’s background that got him into architectural criticism? I see he has degrees in Physics, no experience at architecture firms, no degrees in philosophy or art or literature or their ilk… Not that I entirely disagree with the guy, but I’m just rather stunned that he is a professor at Ohio State and doesn’t seem to have any “formal” background in architecture…

    • alex

      Chris some of the best architects are self-taught… sometimes degrees are used as a cover-up of mediocrity…

  • Chris

    It was my understanding that the building with the cantilevers was the boolean subtraction of the other rectilinear building. So I really hope that Holl took away the corresponding outer skin from the other volume when he plated in the cantilevers, otherwise it seems like the essence of the concept is lost.

  • Joseph

    is Kipnis looking a bit haggard to anyone else?
    losing it?

  • joe

    so… the take away from the conversation was an alibi for some value engineering that was probably going to happen anyway …?

  • James MD

    Is it just me or is Kipnis kind of a douche? Cantilevers are heterosexual chauvinism! OK drama queen. Honestly, that’s just sorta clownshow material.

  • gcbc

    +1 for holl > kipness.

  • gen

    “Leaning tower of Pizza”. Oh for God sake… Pedantic moron pretending to be a critic.
    Talking over Holl, that scarf, the hands gestures, “cantilevers are chauvinist macho tricks”, you name it. What a douche.
    (Sidenote: cantilevers are ok if it fits the project, if the owner/client has money to spend and if the owner/client/architect wants to convey a message through his building, whether its “I´ve got money to spent”, “I know architecture”, “I have extraordinary good taste”, “I deserve a Pritzker already” or whatever…).