Gallery: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: 7 Questions with Architect Steven Holl

 
The Vanke Center in China was completed this year, and is an innovative take on take on the vertical skyscraper. Not only is the mixed-use building green, diverse, and tsunami-proof -- it's also in the running for LEED Platinum certification.

4. 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.

INHABITAT: How would you describe your signature style? As we all know, we’re in the era of the ‘iconic building’ and the ‘starchitect’. However facile this might be, the designs of public institutions are often offered to the biggest names, and the most ‘iconic’ architects. How do you feel about this trend, and how do you work in a system like this and continue to create thoughtful, meaningful architecture, when so many developers are looking for ‘the next Bilbao’?

Steven: I believe that architecture needs to be completely anchored in its program and site. Its meaning must be so deeply rooted in the conditions of its inception that it’s unfazed by fashion. My first book Anchoring describes the relation of a building to a site, to its culture and to its metaphysical origins. If architecture’s original concept can go deeper, rather than broader, it builds a meaning on the site. It fortifies a locus of thoughts and philosophical hopes, or even humor and stories, which are oblivious to whatever style it is.

INHABITAT: Are you concerned about environmental and social sustainability in your buildings? If so, what role does green building play into your work?

Steven: The 21st century presents us with one third of the earth already developed, much of it in sprawling waste. A fundamental change of attitude, a re-visioning of values must take place. We emphasize sustainable building and site development as fundamental to innovative and imaginative design.

In Shenzhen China, a city that went from 8,000 to a population of over 12 million, natural landscape has been rapidly obliterated. New strategies for cultivation of urban vegetation are crucial to maintain a balance of flora and fauna as well as natural aquifers and general climatic balance. Advanced structural technologies and construction techniques open up the potential for new flying architectures, horizontal skyscrapers and public function bridges developing new urban layers. Our multifunctional “horizontal skyscraper” in Shenzhen, China won the architectural competition due to the maximizing of public landscape while rising to the 35m height limit and maximizing distant ocean views from the living/working spaces. Due to sophisticated combinations of “cable-stay” bridge technology merged with a high strength concrete frame there are no trusses in this floating skyscraper. The lush tropical landscape below is be open to the public and will contain restaurants and cafés in vegetated mounds bracketed with pools and walkways.

LEAVE A COMMENT

or your inhabitat account below

Let's make sure you're a real person:


11 Comments

  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 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.

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
What are you looking for? (Solar, HVAC, etc.)
Where are you located?