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.
Though the project parameters and locations have changed, Holl doesn’t see working in the West as all that different to China, saying “integral concepts drive the design process and development of all of our projects which are then given materiality, light, detail and space in the development of the designs. These integrated elements are central to the excitement of doing a unique work of architecture for every site and circumstance.”
"We have worked on a large range of programs, and each is different no matter where they are located," Holl adds. When an inspiring space is realized, often it has little to do with pragmatics of a program list. Light, form and spatial energy are easier to realize with support of clients who desire these inspirations. We have been fortunate to find them in Asia, as well as in the US, Europe, and Latin America."
Chris McVoy, Senior Partner at Steven Holl Architects, sums up their design approach as one of global appeal: "It's not just the element of place, but also each moment in time presents a convergence of potentials and challenges, and these specifics are translated through concepts and tectonics into a unique architecture which hopefully engages the global context.”
Read on for descriptions and construction updates for all of Steven Holl Architects' eight projects in progress.
Glassell School of Art, Houston, Texas
The most recent addition to the slate of projects is the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The building will replace the school’s existing 35-year old building, and add approximately 80,000 square feet of state-of-the-art studios and active social spaces. The building brackets the Brown Foundation Plaza and extends the campus landscape onto its roof, culminating in a trellised roof garden that provides views of the entire campus.
"Ex of In" House, Rhinebeck, New York
Breaking ground this past summer, the "Ex of In" house is projected to be completed next year. The house is part of the firm's ongoing research project “Explorations of In,” which questions “current clichés of architectural language and commercial practice” and explores spatial language, energy, openness and public space. At just 918 square feet on a 28-acre wild landscape originally slated to be subdivided into five suburban house plots, the Ex of In House itself is an instrument of preservation, utilizing geothermal wells for heating and cooling and solar systems for electricity production.
Maggie’s Centre Barts, London, UK
Located adjacent to the large courtyard of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, the oldest hospital in London, Holl's Maggie’s Center began construction this past June. The cancer clinic is envisioned as a “vessel within a vessel within a vessel,” with a branching concrete frame, an inner layer of perforated bamboo and an outer layer featuring colored glass fragments recalling “neume notation” of Medieval music of the 12th century.
Hunter’s Point Community Library, Queens, NY, United States
In May, construction began on Holl’s design for Hunter’s Point Community Library in Queens. Sharing the skyline with the iconic Pepsi-Cola sign next-door, the 22,000 square foot library’s façade features glazed cuts, offering users views toward the city as they ascend a series of bookshelf-flanked staircases.
John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts Expansion, Washington, DC, United States
Nearly 50 years after the groundbreaking for Edward Durell Stone’s original Kennedy Center, the famed institution broke ground on an expansion project designed to add 60,000 square feet to the Center. The addition preserves the silhouette of the current building by going underground, and provides new rehearsal rooms, classrooms, meeting rooms, a lecture hall and an event space. The expansion will feature soaring ceilings filled with natural light and will reconnect the Center to the Potomac River.
Institute for Contemporary Art, Virginia Commonwealth University
The 41,000 square foot Institue for Comtemporary Art will act as a gateway between the VCU campus and the city of Richmond. Featuring four independent gallery spaces and a cafe, the building is designed with a “double-front” to welcome both students and community members.
Center for Creative and Performing Arts Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, United States
Above ground, Steven Holl Architects' design for The Lewis Center of the Arts at Princeton appears to be three buildings, for theater, arts and music. Beneath the surface though, the three structures are connected in a forum area, where students from the different disciplines can meet. The project also strives to become a gateway to the campus, maximizing movement from all sides and connecting the community to the University.
Visual Arts Building, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, United States
Replacing the original Visual Arts building which was heavily damaged by flooding in 2008, Holl’s new Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa was designed volumetrically, with particular importance placed on turning circulation space into social space. The project contains 126,000 square feet of loft-like space for the departments of ceramics, sculpture, metals, photography, print making and 3D multimedia as well as gallery space and faculty offices and studios.
Correction update: This article has been amended to correct the square footage of the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. The building is 41,000 square feet, not 38,000 as previously listed.