This article was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Q&A: Steven Holl."
For twenty years, Maggie's Centres have been providing cancer treatment to patients within thoughtful, beautiful spaces designed by renowned architects like Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid. Steven Holl's Maggie's Center Barts, located adjacent to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in central London, is slated to open at the end of this year. While the design has been somewhat controversial in the UK due to its contemporary nature, the cancer care facility incorporates innovative lighting, sustainable materials, and a compact structure in a way that is—according to the architect—entirely complementary to its historical neighbors. We spoke with the renowned architect to learn more about the project and what it has meant to him over the past four years.
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”
This well-known quote, most often attributed to comedian Martin Mull, compares attempting to explain music’s complex auditory intricacies with words to trying to interpret architectural forms through the motion of the human body – the underlying implication, of course, that it’s fruitless.
But take a closer inspection of the analogy. Music and writing may be media for disparate senses, but, at their height, dance and architecture share a realm of space and light; both perform as formal exercises that relate to the human proportion of the body. Must dancing about architecture truly be an exercise in futility?
A year after premiering at the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial, last week Steven Holl and dance choreographer Jessica Lang’s “Tesseracts of Time” made its New York debut at the City Center mainstage. The 21-minute performance, designed as a part of Holl’s ‘Explorations of IN’ project, explores the relationship between performance and environment through four phases, which the designers liken to the passing of the four seasons.
The new Hunters Point Community Library, designed by Steven Holl Architects, has topped out. Located along the East River in Long Island City, New York, the 22,000 square foot library will add a new community-devoted space to the waterfront, while serving as a new icon that can be seen from across the river in Manhattan.
Steven Holl has been awarded the 2016 Daylight Award in Architecture, which honors architects “who have distinguished themselves by realizing architecture or creating urban environments that showcase a unique use of daylight, for the benefit of overall quality of life, its impact on human health, well-being and performance, and its value to society.”
Steven Holl Architects have received the go-ahead for a new pedestrian bridge linking their own Kennedy Center Expansion to the Potomac riverfront. Originally proposed by Kennedy Center architect Edward Durell Stone in 1959, the idea to extend the lively arts program from the center along the waterfront is set to increase the vitality of both existing programs. The bridge approval was one of the last remaining piece of the project, with the majority of the Kennedy Center Expansion already under construction.
Steven Holl Architects has been commissioned by Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a new Visual Arts Building and Quad, promoting a future for the arts on the campus. Inspired by the trees that will surround the building, Holl calls the project a “pavilion on the park,” in a design compared to a kite in the trees. The project was announced by President Daniel R. Porterfield during F&M’s commencement on May 7, after Holl and Senior Partner Chris McVoy presented their concept to the College Board of Trustees two days prior.
The very concept of an art gallery implies an inward focus. While the need to showcase the cultural treasures contained within is self-evident, the need to connect these sheltered exhibition spaces to the outside world is less so, and in some cases is overlooked entirely. Even monumental design that turns the museum itself into a sculptural element may fail to make a reference to its particular surroundings. This sense of 'placelessness' is what Steven Holl sought to avoid in his design for an art museum at the heart of Helsinki, Kiasma – a museum whose carefully choreographed outward views, formally irregular gallery spaces,, and indeed its very name speak to the ideal of connection.
Steven Holl Architects (SHA) has been commissioned by Williams College to complete a program and masterplan study for the Williams College Department of Art and Museum of Art (WCMA). "The Master Plan aims to evaluate programming and space needs toward the determination of a program to catalyze the engagement of students, faculty and visitors with the visual arts," says SHA.
After talking with nearly 30 distinct groups of students, faculty and museum staff, SHA defined five main goals in which the study is based on:
CHAMBER is pleased to announce their first exhibition in 2016, Capsule #4: “Unpacking The Cube,” presenting works by LEONG LEONG, LEVENBETTS, and STEVEN HOLL ARCHITECTS. The exhibition will open Thursday, January 21st.
Andrew Zuckerman, curator of Collection #2 “Human | Nature” in collaboration with Chamber, approached three architecture studios, each at different points in their professional trajectories - LEONG LEONG, LEVENBETTS, and STEVEN HOLL ARCHITECTS - prompting the architects to reach into the conceptual roots of their practice and convey them via physical objects for the exhibition space.
Referencing architecture's intimate past with the arts, Steven Holl argues the importance of collaborating with other artists for the benefit of the profession alongside choreographer and dancer Jessica Lang. "If we don't intermix the arts and collaborate, we are going to close... The arts are going to fade out individually. We are stronger together."
Watch the Spirit of Space video above to learn more about Holl and Lang's collaboration - Dance with Architecture - that uses dance to explore the four types of architecture: "under the ground, in the ground, on the ground, and over the ground."
As the founder of Steven Holl Architects, Steven Holl is recognized as one of the world's leading architects, having received prestigious awards for his contributions to design over the course of nearly forty years in practice, including the prestigious Alvar Aalto Medal in 1998, the AIA Gold Medal in in 2012, and the 2014 Praemium Imperiale. In 1991, Time Magazine named Holl America's Best Architect. He is revered for his ability to harness light to create structures with remarkable sensitivity to their locations, while his written works have been published in many preeminent volumes, sometimes collaborating with world-renowned architectural thinkers such as Juhani Pallasmaa and Alberto Pérez-Gómez.
Steven Holl Architects (SHA) is preparing to break ground on a project that is nearly eight years in the making. The ambitious "Copenhagen Gate" development will break ground next year, as Fast Company reports, after being initially held back in 2008. It will feature two asymmetrical towers - Gate L and Gate M - connected by a (terrifying) pedestrian skybridge suspended 213 feet above the harbor.
A consortium led by Sergey Skuratov Architects (SSA) was selected over Steven Holl Architects and Miralles Tagliabue EMBT to develop a concept for a multi use complex on Moscow's Sofiyskaya Embankment. Planned for a historic area on the Moscow-river bank, opposite Kremlin, the winning concept calls for three "longitudinal units with roofs of different types and heights" that produce a "picturesque outline" and offers a "gentle transition" from the "old buildings to new."
Read on for a glimpse of the winning and two runner-up proposals.
It is no secret that, in the last 10 years, a majority of the big budget construction projects have been centered in newly emerging world markets like China. But now, the markets may be turning. Steven Holl Architects is a strong example of this trend: with the groundbreaking of the Glassell School of Art in Houston on the 15th, the firm now has 8 projects under construction in the western world - 7 in the United States, and one in the United Kingdom. Owing to the steady strengthening of the US dollar over recent years, clients seem to be investing in high ticket architecture once again. After completing projects abroad such as the Sliced Porosity Block in Chengdu, and Nanjing’s Sifang Art Museum, Holl will now be working in cities like Richmond, Iowa City, New York and London.
Holl’s recent work also reflects a change in design scale. In projects such as the Linked Hybrid in Beijing and the Vanke Center/Horizontal Skyscraper in Shenzhen, design began at the urban level, resulting in inward-looking superstructures. In the firm’s return to the west, projects are usually designed as an object or extension of an existing environment, such as in their expansion project for the Kennedy Center. The reduced sense of scale is also evident in the square-footage in some of their recent designs, including a residence to be built at under 1000 square feet.
In June, the Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) released a call for architects interested in designing a New Embassy Compound (NEC) in Brasília, Brazil's federal capital. Of the 48 firms deemed eligible to compete, 6 practices have been shortlisted to move on to the second and final stage of the international competition.
In It’s A Wonderful Life the film’s protagonist George Bailey, facing a crisis of faith, is visited by his guardian angel, and shown an alternate reality where he doesn’t exist. The experience gives meaning to George’s life, showing him his own importance to others. With the increasing scale of design competitions these days, architectural “could-have-beens” are piling up in record numbers, and just as George Bailey's sense of self was restored by seeing his alternate reality, hypothesizing about alternative outcomes in architecture is a chance to reflect on our current architectural moment.
On this key date for one of the most crucial designs of this generation, we decided to look back at some of the most important competitions of the last century to see how things might have been different.