In this article originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Urban Hopes, Urban Dreams", Samuel Medina reviews a new book on the work of Steven Holl in China. Focusing on five major projects, the book places Holl's work in the wider context of his urbanistic influences - including ideas from his own early paper architecture that are just now resurfacing.
Steven Holl is the rare architect whose concepts are equally known as his buildings. Chalk that up to Holl’s prolific output, in both buildings and monographs, and his knack for branding his ideas. Urban Hopes: Made in China (Lars Müller, 2014), a condensed reader on Holl's latest work in China, is the latest in a stream of small books that have continually repackaged the architect's growing body of work.
Anchoring and Intertwining appeared in 1996 and expounded on architectural themes and spatial notions only partially evinced by his work up until that time. In both, the buildings were few and far between, scattered between pages imprinted with “paper architecture,” the primary outlet for Holl’s creative energies in the prior decades since his move to New York in 1976. These and more titles were followed up by Parallax in 2000, a blend of philosophical, scientific, and poetic references that invest the architecture with the aura of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Holl’s idea of “porosity” made its debut here, if prematurely, where it was applied rather literally to Simmons Hall at MIT and its sponge-like facade. It wasn’t until a few years later, when the architect first got his feet wet in China, that the concept would be baptised as a core tenet of 21st-century urban design. 2009’s Urbanisms advances as much, while further recapitulating the big ideas of the previous book installments.
Read on after the break for the review of Urban Hopes