INHABITAT INTERVIEW: 7 Questions with Architect Steven Holl

by , 11/05/14
filed under: Architecture, Interviews

Steven Holl Architects, steven holl, steven holl interview, architecture interviews, inhabitat interview with steven holl, linked hybrid, Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum, Helsinki, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Beijing, Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York City, Pratt Institute Higgins Hall Center Section, Brooklyn, NY, Knut Hamsun Centre (Hamsunsenteret), Nordland, Norway, Museum of Art and Architecture, Nanjing, steven holl watercolors, horizontal skscraper

INHABITAT: What do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability?

Steven: The space, the geometry, the light of an architecture in great proportions must remain the core aim, while engineering aims for zero carbon, ultra-green architecture. But this balance between the poetry of architecture and its green engineering is crucial.

INHABITAT: Many of your fans would say that you design your buildings with a strong focus on both user experience and natural light, is this correct? Can you tell us more about this?

Steven: Space is oblivion without light. A building speaks through the silence of perception orchestrated by light. Luminosity is as integral to its spatial experience as porosity is integral to urban experience.

For our Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasma the most important building material was light. Of the twenty-five galleries which make up the main function of the museum all have a slice of natural light. The behavior of light guided many decisions. The low angle of the Helsinki sun – never reaching above 51 degrees – helps give sectional form to the curved “light catching” aspect of the architecture. Changes in natural lighting conditions are left visible – so passing clouds bring shadow – brightness varies as the interior experience varies.

We conceive of the space, light and concept of a work from the very beginning. Often in concept watercolors the aspects of light are there in the first sketch, integral to the concept of the architecture, unique to the site and place. The infinite possibilities of light have been evident from the beginning of architecture and will continue into the future. The revelations of new spaces, like interwoven languages, dissolve and reappear in light. In magnificent spaces, light changes and appears to describe form.

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  1. Allie Schieffelin Walker July 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Now and Forever, Steven Holl is a genious. We did the facade lighting with elliptipar, and it is in our Case Studies Volume Three for anyone interested….

  2. SUJEE2003 June 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

    1. Where would you find building ceiling tile plan & objects on the ceiling?
    a. top view plan
    b. Mirror image reflective object plan
    c. Elevated drawing
    d. Ceiling tile plan

    2. Where would you find latest revision of drawing?
    a. “as built” drawing
    b. Mechanical drawing
    c. Architectural drawing
    d. Plumbing drawing

  3. noura25 October 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    “space and light”are some of his secret ingredients to a great architecture like his…but only the true architect knows how to use them well in order to create that magic!

  4. Architecture Icon: Stev... October 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    […] recently scored an exclusive interview with Holl, asking him to describe his signature style. The answer? It’s not about Holl – it’s […]

  5. Rashad Al- October 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Amazing interview, I can’t think of anything that inspired me more than his book “anchoring”…worth every minute!

  6. hassan October 14, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    This project is very nice and for sustainable Architecture & sustainable world.

    best wishes for holl

  7. Mike Chino October 13, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    The architecture of Steven Holl elevates the principles of sustainable design to an art form – fantastic interview!

  8. Rebecca Paul October 13, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    NIce work Diane. Thanks for bringing us such wonderful content!

  9. Jill Fehrenbacher October 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    This is a really great interview Diane! Steven Holl is one of the most thoughtful and groundbreaking architects of our time in his consider of site, light, user-experience and social/environment context. Fascinating interview – well done!

  10. Andrew Michler October 13, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I am very encouraged by Mr. Holl’s emphasis on place. So much building has been designed in isolation, literary dropped onto a landscape since suburbia, look and perform poorly as a result. I think buildings that do not respond to the surrounding environment simply compound the problem. It is deeply refreshing to experience buildings like Mr. Holl’s that are intimate with there surroundings.

  11. Real October 13, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Great article. He should try using cork. It is a unique product that is completely renewable, 100 per cent natural and recyclable.

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