Search results for "steven holl"

Giant's Holl-way

Steven Holl-led team wins University College Dublin expansion
The Steven Holl Architects (SHA)-led team has won the University College of Dublin's (UCD) Future Campus – University College Dublin International Design Competition. Holl’s winning scheme will see the creation of a “green spine” across the sixty-acre campus, and construction of a crystalline Centre for Creative Design. Steven Holl Architects was joined by Dublin-based Kavanagh Tuite Architects, Brightspot Strategy, structural engineers ARUP, landscape architects HarrisonStevens, and climate engineers Transsolar. Nearly 100 teams from 28 different countries entered the competition, and a star-studded shortlist featuring Diller Scofidio + RenfroJohn Ronan ArchitectsO’Donnell + Toumey, Steven Holl Architects, Studio Libeskind, and UN Studio was revealed in April. The SHA-designed Centre will reportedly reflect the “60-million-year-old natural geometry” of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, filtered through the “stream of consciousness”-style prose found in UCD alumnus James Joyce’s Ulysses, according to Steven Holl. The resultant building is a geometric take on SHA’s more typical institutional work, with windows and balconies carved into prismatic shapes, including a gem-like auditorium faceted like a dodecagon. A plaza and reflecting pool will meet the building at its base. Inside, the center has been optimized for collecting natural light as the jutting crystal shapes—rotated 23 degrees in reference to the tilt of the Earth—will act as enormous solar tubes. The new building will contain classrooms and maker spaces bounded by glass walls, so visitors can peer into the academic areas without disrupting the work going on inside. The Centre will act as a gateway to the seven new quadrangular green spaces the team has designed, which will be interlinked through the new pedestrian “spine” that will run parallel to the campus’s existing circulation route. The SHA team has included a series of solar power-generating weather canopies along the route, as well as cafes and social gathering spaces. UCD was founded in 1854 and is the largest college in Ireland with over 30,000 students. The current 330-acre campus was designed in 1963 by Polish architect Andrej Wejchert and contains a large number of brutalist buildings. The Centre’s budget will be approximately $60 million, and no completion date has been given as of yet.

Glass-ell House

Steven Holl’s Glassell School of Art is clad with 178 unique precast panels
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from ->
Earlier this year, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) opened the new Glassell School of Art, the nation’s only museum-affiliated art school serving pre-K through postgraduate students. The Steven Holl Architects-designed project is the first building in a 14-acre development that will reshape the museum’s campus. It joins other buildings on the campus designed by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Rafael Moneo, and Carlos Jimenez. The design has an L-shaped plan with a sloping, walkable roofline running the length of the building.
 
  • Facade Manufacturer Gate Precast Company (precast concrete panels), Admiral Glass Company (glazing)
  • Architects Steven Holl Architects, Kendall Heaton Associates (associate architect)
  • Facade Installer Gate Precast Company (precast concrete panels), Admiral Glass Company (glazing)
  • Facade Consultants Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering
  • Location Houston
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Structural precast concrete panels, insulated glazing unit
  • Products Gate Precast Company precast concrete panels, Cristacruva IGU with Guardian SN 62/34 sunguard on Guardian clear glass, Kawneer zero sightline vents
The facade of the Glassell School consists of monumental precast concrete panels tied together with cast-in-place concrete plank beams with glazed infill panels between. There are 178 unique precast panel shapes. They all reference the same 11-degree angle seen in the slope of the roof. This shows up with variations in each panel to create the facade’s unique look. Originally, the project team designed a system of only precast panels, but this created challenging connection details, so they opted for cast-in-place beams to connect the panels. These beams were cast with vertically-projected rebar that each precast panel mounted onto. The panels were fitted with sleeves at the base and the top to receive the rebar from the beams. This required a great amount of precision in the fabrication of the panels to align the sleeves with the rebar. It took immense coordination between the architects, the concrete contractor casting the beams, and the precast fabricator, Gate Precast Company. The architects, along with the client, chose to cast the concrete using a color that references the Indiana limestone used in the surrounding buildings on the campus. The cast-in-place beams were cast in a similar white concrete to match the precast concrete as closely as possible. The interior of the building is mostly art studios, which called for indirect daylighting. Steven Holl Architects delivered this through the use of two different glazing systems integrated within the facade. Alternating between the precast concrete structure there are expansive insulated glazing units (IGUs) with a translucent polyvinyl butyral (PVB) interlayer. This assembly was designed to mitigate solar gain and save energy while allowing the interior to be fully illuminated. The translucent glass also creates a glowing effect for the building's exterior at night. In addition to the IGUs, each studio space has a small three-foot-by-three-foot operable vent with clear glazing that allows for an exterior view.

Fairest of them all

University College Dublin reveals masterplan renderings from DS+R, Steven Holl, and more
University College Dublin (UCD) revealed the latest design proposals from the six shortlisted teams for Future Campus—University College Dublin International Design Competition. Six teams were chosen from the 98 firms that submitted proposals earlier this year, and the latest renderings reveal competing visions for the university's future. Diller Scofidio + Renfro (New York) John Ronan Architects (Chicago) O’Donnell + Tuomey (Dublin) Steven Holl Architects (New York) Studio Libeskind (New York) UNStudio (Amsterdam) The design competition consists of two design initiatives—one is a sixty-acre Entrance Precinct master plan and another is the Centre for Creative Design, a new building to house a maker space and a “living learning lab.” UCD, Ireland’s "Global University", is one of Ireland’s largest universities with more than 30,000 students. The university moved to its current 330-acre Belfield campus in 1963, which was masterplanned by Polish architect Andrzej Wejchert through another competition. The current campus consists of a collection of estates, including period houses and four- to five-story Brutalist structures within a landscaped setting. The master plan is envisioned to be “a highly-visible and welcoming entrance precinct” to introduce placemaking and establish an identity for the university. The new masterplan will house the 90,000 square foot Centre for Creative Design, which is meant to be an emblem of UCD’s creative identity. Another aspect of the masterplan is to increase the permeability of the campus boundary, potentially by introducing a new vehicular entrance and working with planned public transportation connections and other transport modes. “We are seeking an integrated design proposal that improves the experience of our campus for its users and that better connects us to our surroundings, orientating us outwards to the world and inviting our communities to engage with us,” said Professor Hugh Campell, professor of architecture at UCD and member of the competition jury. The university is now seeking comments on the design proposals from the UCD community, whose feedback will be fed to the jury. The winner will be announced in August 2018.  

Porous Edge

Steven Holl-designed Glassell School of Art opens at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston
On May 20, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) will open the first phase of its campus redevelopment project with the inauguration of the Glassell School of Art, designed by Steven Holl Architects. The building is the first of three to be realized as part of the museum’s $450 million expansion of its Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim Campus. The remaining two buildings are in construction—the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, also designed by Holl, is expected in early 2020, and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, designed by Lake|Flato Architects, is expected by late 2018—along with an underground parking garage and connecting tunnels. The new Glassell building, largely programmed as classrooms and exhibition spaces, doubles the size of its prior building, which was demolished to make way for the campus expansion. According to architect Chris McVoy, the Glassell School is a campus building formed in response to the institution’s public outdoor spaces. The L-shaped form faces Montrose Boulevard but is set back from its edge, creating a plaza that extends the Cullen Sculpture Garden by Isamu Noguchi to the north, defining a northern edge on the campus. The sloped roof extends the landscape up to the BBVA Compass Roof Garden, an outdoor space that provides views of the Brown Foundation Plaza and the city beyond. Structured over below-grade classrooms and underground parking, the plaza, designed by Deborah Nevins & Associates, takes cues from the Noguchi Sculpture Garden. Its south end is anchored by Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Column (1998–2006), and Eduardo Chillida’s Song of Strength (1966) is installed on the north side close to the café entrance. In the middle, a grove of Mexican sycamores and a fountain provide recreational space. The exterior of the Glassell School is the most striking aspect of the building, realized with Guy Nordenson and Associates as structural engineer in coordination with Cardno Structural Engineering, and Kendall Heaton Associates as Architect of Record. Its primitive stacked pieces of sandblasted concrete also act as structural supports (the 178 precast elements were made by Gate Precast, the same Texas company that fabricated the facade of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas by Morphosis Architects). The facade’s color was selected to work with the limestone materiality of the campus, which includes buildings by Mies van der Rohe, Rafael Moneo, and Carlos Jiménez. Using the 11-degree slope of the roof as a geometric starting point, each facade panel is angled on its long side, establishing a vocabulary of shapes for the lithic figures. Select panels are tilted, creating relief in the facade and casting shadows across the glazing. Each enormous piece of translucent glazing illuminates art-making spaces with diffuse light and is augmented by a square operable window. The design continues Holl’s interest in porosity but scales up to its current stacked stone expression. The Glassell might be the “most tectonic building we’ve ever done,” McVoy said. Inside, the spaces are spare but full of light, realized in white, shades of gray, and translucent glass. After entering through the interior corner vestibule, the forum space—another example of Holl’s facility in shaping spatially complex atria—is illuminated from above and works as a circulatory hinge between the two perpendicular wings. Here, visitors access upper floors, performances can be staged, and large-scale artworks can be installed. Above, independent steel stairs cross the void on their way up to the roof. Classrooms and a small auditorium are finished simply, with many rooms open to bottom of the precast concrete planks that structure the floors. The Glassell’s architecture operates in a contextually contradictory manner, in that it takes material cues from the campus but expresses them in its own articulations. Holl’s work shares a structural expressionism with Mies’s building; both projects show how they stretch their respective technical limits. It’s all about “using the technology of your time to get down to the simplest elements and put them together with the most advanced technology,” Holl said. So while Mies utilized steel and glass, the new Glassell advances a massive construction method. “Energy is more important today than structure,” Holl explained. The thermal mass and radiant heating and cooling loops within topping slabs indicate that this concern has been integrated—light, energetic performance, and structure are part of the united expression at work in the Glassell building. If it is energy the architects are after, then the building seems poised to deliver. It will soon host thousands of students of all ages learning artistic skills, and countless more citizens who will claim its plaza as a new public terrain in Houston.

It's Forking Time

A closer look at Steven Holl’s completed ICA in Richmond
Ahead of its official opening on April 21, AN toured the luminescent Steven Holl Architects-designed Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. Though the ICA uses a simple material palette–zinc, raw concrete, translucent glass, and splashes of wood–it becomes more than the sum of its parts thanks to smart siting decisions that put natural light on display as much as the artwork. The concept of the past, present and future mingling together informed the “branching paths” shape of the building, the dual entrances (one towards the VCU campus and the other towards the city itself) and the finish details. In Holl’s own words, the building was conceived as a nexus between past and future, with “forking time” as the project’s central design tenant. Across the 41,000-square-foot space, each of the three gallery spaces, one on each floor, extend and rotate as they rise. From the exterior, the ICA can appear monolithic, as the distinction between its horizontal zinc panels and vertical frosted glass windows can disappear on cloudy days. At night the building glows from within and casts light from the ends of its rectangular volumes into the sculpture garden and the campus beyond. The project sits on the northeastern corner of VCU’s campus, both on top of the historic Elba train station and next to Richmond’s busiest intersection. That embodied kinetic energy extends to the building itself and into dramatic upward-flowing curves, whether in the 33-foot-tall Royall Forum at the entrance or the 33-foot-tall True Farr Luck capstone gallery that’s bounded by a swooping arch. Holl is obviously no stranger to designing light-filled art institutions; this year is the 20th anniversary of the semi-circular Kiasma Museum in Helsinki. As a result, the ICA is designed with exhibitions and flexibility in mind, from the terrazzo ground concrete floors to unfinished concrete-beam-ceilings, affording artists the chance to anchor pieces as they see fit. It’s impossible to separate the institution from the art on display within. The ICA will hold no permanent collection and will instead feature rotating shows of various sizes throughout the year. Not having to worry about how light would affect the art afforded Holl the opportunity to design around the natural daylight cycle, instead of creating diffused, even light throughout. The light from the skylights piercing the first and second-floor galleries ebbs and flows as the sun moves overhead. Many of the installations in the ICA’s inaugural exhibition, Declaration (an examination of how artists can address contemporary social issues), are arranged around these windows, using them as spotlights or for increased ambiance. Nowhere is this usage of light more prominent than in the top-floor gallery, which is sandwiched between a wall of glass on the western front and an elevated window on the eastern side. Besides the space’s enormous height, the most striking feature is how the sun moves from one window to the next over the day, creating a dynamically-lit space that sheds new light on the oversized installations within, depending on what time of day it is. The auditorium stands apart in its material palette, wrapped in cherry wood panels. The building also includes a sculpture garden and reflecting pool, and 8,000 square feet of greenery that covers three of the four gallery roofs. Sustainability considerations also factored heavily into the design, and the ICA is heated and cooled entirely through the use of 43 geothermal wells which radiate warmth up through the floor. The $41 million building is designed to attract passerby with its ground-level clear glass facade at ground level and the zinc-clad building volume lifting up over the entranceway. It also happens to take on new shapes depending on which direction it’s approached from. While it might seem imposing from the sidewalk, visitors will find an organic, constantly changing embrace within. Declaration will run from April 21, 2018, through September 9, 2018, and admission to the ICA is free.

Building Care

Steven Holl’s ethereal Maggie’s Centre truly embraces its surroundings
After an arduous journey, Steven Holl's Maggie's Centre is finally open. The new $10 million London care center, as with all Maggie’s Centres, will offer free emotional and practical support to cancer patients. This particular center, however, was marred by controversy—not something you would expect from a building designed to help sick people. The center is the latest for Maggie's, the charity founded by Charles Jencks in 1995 after his wife, Maggie Keswick Jencks, died of cancer. The couple believed in the uplifting power of architecture and have since installed more than 20 centers across the world, the majority of which are in the U.K. Nestled into a neoclassical enclave on the grounds of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in central London, Holl's Maggie's Center very nearly never happened. For his design to be built, a rudimentary brick building from the 1960s had to come down. But that wasn’t the issue. Instead, the project’s adversaries argued that the new center didn’t connect with its surroundings. This is nothing new with Maggie’s Centers across the U.K., even though Jencks has previously enlisted architecture’s A-list to design the structures, which are independent from nearby hospitals. Jencks has tapped Norman FosterFrank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, Rem Koolhaas, and soon Daniel Libeskind, with a center in Hampstead. A page from Charles Jencks’ The Architecture of Hope: Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres shows the site plan of all centers (before Holl’s was built). Here we can see green cytoplasm shrouding the Maggie’s Center nuclei; almost all the centers are one story and are surrounded by a protective grass lawn. On such a tight site, there was no room for greenery, on the ground level at least. The first Maggie’s Center to reach three stories, Holl’s design incorporates a roof garden overlooking a centuries-old quadrangle that includes the 1740s church of St. Bartholomew-the-Less. In a recent lecture at the World Architecture Festival, British architect and planner Sir Terry Farrell referenced Frank Gehry’s center in Dundee, Scotland (full disclosure: I work in communications at Farrell's firm). He argued that the building exacerbated the dichotomy between the brilliantly designed and the under-designed. Who wouldn’t want a pristine lawn to protect from the encroaching drab contemporary hospital vernacular? At St. Bartholemew’s, which is Europe's oldest hospital, such banal healthcare architecture cannot be found. Despite this, Holl's Maggie’s Center is at peace with its neighbors. After calls for modifications, the center shares a basement, toilets, and elevators with the adjacent 18th century Great Hall, a landmarked work of architect James Gibbs. Even these changes were nearly not enough. Holl's design scraped through the second round of planning by one vote and even after that, a lawsuit was filed against the planners. "I flew in from New York and they gave me three minutes in a courtroom. That was it!" Holl recalled, laughing. Wrapping the building is a facade that at night reveals the squares of color embedded, offering a hazy glow. During the day, this color palette is significantly muted and the glass skin is more of a misty gray. Outside, visitors can also see a rounded corner design, which is mirrored inside by a bamboo staircase that traces the perimeter as it winds upward. Holl calls this the “basket” and a “vessel within a vessel within a vessel,” a reference to the concrete structural shell that lies between the glass and bamboo. No attempt has been made to hide this structure, and the result is a pleasing display of both tectonics and tactile design in harmony. According to the Holl, the glass is a new invention. Comprising two layers of insulation, the embedded color film channels light out at night and blurs it during the day. The colored squares are also a reference to Medieval music's "neume notation." “It couldn’t be glossy!” exclaimed Holl. “There are too many glass buildings today.” The architect continued: "Jencks thinks I'm a postmodernist, however, this building is for architecture a manifesto for the expression of materials; [it stands] against everything pomo was." “In my 40 years of practice, this is one of my favorite buildings I’ve ever done,” Holl said.

The Holl Shebang

Steven Holl Architects’ colored photovoltaic glass design wins Doctors Without Borders competition
Steven Holl Architects, in collaboration with Rüssli Architekten, has been selected by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) to design the organization’s new Geneva Operational Center. The winning proposal’s playful design was selected unanimously over international proposals from Pool Architekten & Mak Architecture, Sauerbruch Hutton, Emilio Tuñon Arquitectos and Ruckstuhl Architekten, Blue Architects, and Consortium Sou Foujimoto with The New Talent Workshop. Broken up into several distinct cubic volumes and clad in a boldly colored photovoltaic glass curtain-wall facade, the building has been nicknamed “Colors of Humanity.” Much more than a decorative element, the glass is composed of 40-percent-transparent solar cells. By changing the color and permeability of the glass across the Operational Center, the facade can shade, cool and power the building all at once while still allowing operable windows. When combined with the more efficient photovoltaic panels nestled within the roof garden, and the Geneva district Genilac lake water loop, 72 percent of the building’s electricity will be self-produced. Providing workstations, meeting rooms, classrooms, and social spaces for over 250 Doctors Without Borders employees, the design also offers an inherently flexible approach to programming. By overlaying criss-crossing passages throughout the interior with seated alcoves and meeting spaces, the firm set out to spur spontaneous conversation and collaboration among the many different types of staff. “These centers serve as a friendly catalyst for interaction, acting like social condensers within the building,” Steven Holl Architects explained. Providing support for more than 6,300 employees across 23 countries, the Center will house several other international project teams such as the “International Office,” the international secretariat, which includes activities related to the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, and various pilot projects. Keeping the diversity of the organization’s work in mind, the Center’s form and photovoltaic systems were designed with the possibility of expansion in the future. “Steven Holl Architects’ project is the opportunity for MSF to integrate its core values like independence, impartiality, neutrality, altruism and dynamism in a challenging new architecture and project itself in the future," said Mathieu Soupart, Logistics Director for the Geneva Operational Center, in a prepared statement. With an expected start date of spring 2019, the Geneva Operational Center will neighbor the Higher International Studies and Development, designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates, and the Terra and Casa Foundation expatriate housing by Bonnard Woeffray Architectes.

Music Box

Steven Holl Architects opens Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton
Earlier this month Steven Holl Architects and Princeton University opened the new Lewis Center for the Arts, a three-building complex anchoring the school’s new 22-acre arts and transit neighborhood. The 145,000-square-foot complex, providing teaching and performance spaces for theater, dance, visual arts and music, includes the Wallace Dance Building and Theater, containing a black box theater and dance performance spaces; the Arts Tower, containing a gallery for the Program in Visual Arts, offices and additional studios; and the new Music Building, containing rehearsal rooms. While the concrete, steel and glass buildings play off each other formally—expanding, tightening, and heightening in seeming progression, all clad in thick, blonde limestone—each takes on a unique identity, reflecting its use and augmenting the complex’s porosity and energy. "There’s an interesting relationship between the whole and the parts," described Steven Holl. "Like an orchestra, in one way, the buildings act on their own, and in another they act like a unified piece." The interior of the Wallace Theater is finished in perforated black steel, while other theaters in that building are finished in varied materials like foamed aluminum, whitewashed wood, and board formed concrete. All are connected by a “dancing stair,” zig-zagging and twirling between levels, clad in vibrant perforated metal. The Music Building’s individual, wood-chambered practice rooms—floating above the large orchestral rehearsal room—are suspended on steel rods, keeping them acoustically isolated in tension, as if they were musical instruments. This interplay can be clearly seen from outside through glass curtain walls. The six-story Arts Tower, cantilevering and seeming to float over its small entryway, references the proportions and massing of the school’s nearby Blair Arch, a famed, vital access point on campus. All three buildings are connected via the Forum, an 8,000 square-foot underground gathering space serving each facility. Above this is an outdoor plaza fitted with stone benches and bluestone pavers and a reflecting pool installed with skylights that filter what Holl describes as "liquid light dancing on the floor" down to the Forum. The complex was made possible in part through a $101 million gift to the University in 2006 by the late Peter B. Lewis, a former Princeton alumnus and university trustee. The arts and transit neighborhood — an ambitious effort to create an engaged gateway on the southern edge of the school’s campus— was designed by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Michael Van Valkenburgh. The area also contains a striking new transit hall, a rail station, and various eateries, including the most modern-looking Wawa in existence. Over 450 trees have been planted on the new grounds, 21 of which are on the Lewis Arts Center site.

Texas Holl 'Em

Ground breaks on Steven Holl’s design for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Steven Holl's design for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) has started construction. In 2015, Holl described the commission as "the most important" of his career.

Steven Holl Architects was awarded the job back in 2012, seeing off competition from Morphosis and Snøhetta, but working out the design has been a drawn-out experience. “What you see here is the culmination of a 36-month design process,” Holl said at a design unveiling two years ago. In addition to the 165,000-square-foot Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, and the Glassell School of Art, the architect also worked on the museum's master plan.

The 14-acre campus will also include the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, designed by Lake|Flato Architects of San Antonio. The two-storey facility will sit above MFAH's existing parking garage and provide conservation labs and studios, and a street-level cafe. Holl's translucent Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, meanwhile, will see two floors of galleries circling a top-lit three-level atrium added along with a restaurant, theater, reflecting pools, vertical gardens, meeting rooms, and underground parking.

The building will have etched glass tubular cladding that will allow daylight to filter through and also give the building a soft glow come sunset. At ground level, six reflecting pools of water will amplify the luminous qualities of the structure's skin, which will also include seven vertical gardens. These will be cut into segments of vision glass instead of the translucent tubing. Inside, the two galleries will total 54,000 square feet. The upper level is to be shielded by a luminous canopy roof, which has concave curves inspired by Texas' billowing clouds. All of the gallery spaces feature natural light. Holl is working with New York–based lighting design firm L’Observatoire International on the project.

Furthermore, Holl's new Glassell School of Art will connect with the water pools and connect the campus to The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza. All in all, MFAH's additions will come to $450 million. Construction is touted for completion in 2019.

Gantry State Park

Steven Holl’s Hunters Point Community Library rises next to the East River

In the year 2010, Steven Holl was chosen to design a community branch of the Queens Library on a commanding site in Long Island City. It would be located opposite the United Nations Headquarters on the shore of the Queens side of the East River and on an angle with the Roosevelt Memorial. In this location bordering Gantry State Park, with a worthy communal purpose, Holl designed a kind of sparkling, bejeweled gate to the city. While the site's close proximity to the U.N. and the Roosevelt Island memorial creates an honorable pedigree, there is a spate of developers' towers around the library—well-built, but expediently designed. Because of the growth of Hunters Point, there was need for a communal branch library. New York City's Queens Library and New York City's Department of Design and Construction (DDC) co-sponsored this modernist design.

Long Island City, or, more specifically Hunters Point, has a rural history that extends back to the 17th century and only later became a cultural and commercial center that is now heavily residential. There are many galleries here, too. In Hunters Point, in the vicinity of the library, 10,000 residential units were built in the last decade and there is a projection of more in the near future.

This Queens Library makes its books available; while it welcomes digital technology, and sets apart a space for cyber activities and working computers, it spurns the notion of a 'bookless library.' In that sense, it is a humanist institution: embracing tradition while also focusing on up-to-date technology.

The architectural design activity for this library may have begun in 2010, but the initiating plans for the social presence of a library were begun about a decade earlier by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat. Van Bramer made it possible for Holl's building to reach above a single story, which was Holl's wish for a more monumental statement so that the 81-foot high building would not be dwarfed by the surrounding towers and have a presence on its own. As it turns out, the construction of the new library will cost the city $42 million.

Contemporary materials were de rigueur for Queens: steel and reinforced concrete and reinforced glass sheets were still industrial, while their functions were solved with the help of digital programs like Rhino. Robert Silman's structural engineering firm postulated that they needed many beams to stiffen the building around the huge windows, so that without any columns in the building, it could withstand any wind pressure. Nine major beams go straight across the narrow building—40-feet wide—in an east/west direction. This supports the suspension of the floors which often are not continuous from north to south. In other words, there is some tricky cantilevering of the floor levels. The walls are a meager 12 inches thick so the steel reinforcement is crucial.

In the beginning, Holl planned for the facing material to be a foamed aluminum, but it was substituted by a subtle, sustainable aluminum paint due to cost constraints. The paint will cover the oriented strand board texture of the reinforced concrete wall surfaces. This all-over texture from flat-surfaced random wooden bits for the formwork is opposed to the Brutalists' rough plywood surface formwork texture. This sustainable painted surface will achieve a glow or “subtle sparkle.”

This was not Holl's first experience designing libraries. In 1988 he won a competition for an extension to the venerable Berlin Amerika Gedenk Bibliothek, but it was not built, a lost commission that he sorely remembers.

Holl is very conscious of nature's intrinsic part in his designs. This Queens Library building is economical and sustainable, in accord with Holl's consciousness of our standing in this planet; it meets the LEED standards. Although the energy system is efficient, they could not use expensive geothermal wells. Another unfortunate budgetary constraint was the prohibition of a reflecting pool, a feature which often accompanies Holl's architecture. However, the project is surrounded by Gantry State Park, a fine imposing setting. There is planned transition between the park and the Library grounds in the form of steps leading towards it. Saved from the budgetary cuts to the building is the rooftop auditorium for which Queens Library recently okayed the funds.

Light coming into the library is profuse: it arrives from all sides. In order to filter the glare, Holl designed silvery, translucent motorized curtains to cover the large-scale windows and this sun screening helps to control the amount of air conditioning dispenced. The largest window on the western exposure has a slanted lower linear frame echoing the line of stairs. Its peculiar shape is vaguely reminiscent of the art of Keith Haring.

Circulation paths have been created around the library for processional movement: The main route leads to the adult section at the west where stairs climb parallel to the diagonal edge of the window frame. There is an elevator on the east side, but the pride of place is the ceremonial climb to different levels of open stacks of bookshelves for three age groups.

A major aesthetic notion of the building is its virtual sculptural carving out of the rectangular mass of a box until it arrives at divisions like the three main age areas. This effect, according to Olaf Schmidt, associate at Steven Holl Architects, might come from Holl's preoccupation with limestone carvings around 2010. Holl, himself, has described some of these buildings' sculptural formations as “subtractive.”

Holl's intuitive inclination can perhaps best be linked to a penchant for the sense-centered ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) and his notion that the body and that which it perceives cannot be disentangled from each other.

Into this mix can be added a rationalizing element, the introduction of proportions. In all his work, Holl is guided by the Fibonacci series and the Golden Section (1.618 ratio) to bring equanimity to the visitor's mind.

The Holl Shebang

Steven Holl creates dramatic contrast with his two buildings on University of Iowa campus

While it is rare that an architect is given the chance to build adjacently to a former project, this was the case for Steven Holl Architects’ latest addition to the University of Iowa campus, in Iowa City, Iowa. Not only does Holl’s new Visual Arts Building sit next to his 2006 Arts Building West, together they create one of the campus’s major outdoor quads. For Holl, the challenge was not just to build a great building, but to build one that was even better than his much-loved first addition to the campus.

After the 2008 Iowa floods, a record-breaking, devastating natural disaster, the University of Iowa needed to replace its original 1936 Visual Arts Building. Rather than go directly to Holl to build the new project, the university held a design competition, which Holl won. The approach to the project would be vastly different than that of the 2006 building.

“You have to make it as good or better,” Holl explained. “That is why it took 30 schemes to get it right. We took the approach, as we have done before in terms of historic buildings, of complementary contrast. The first building is Cor-Ten and planar, with the steel structure exposed. This building is volumetric, not planar and concrete, not steel, and a different strategy altogether.”

Comprised of four offset levels, seven vertical cutouts produce outdoor balconies and indoor atria, bringing light deep into the new building. Other apertures lay behind the outer porous zinc skin system, arranged and sized with the Fibonacci sequence. Together, the cutouts and windows allow for studio spaces to be completely daylit. The interior cutouts also provide space for the buildings major vertical social and circulation areas. These communal spaces were at the heart of the project’s design.

“The seven cuts of light vertically penetrate the laminar shifting section,” Holl said. “We give them all equal weight as social spaces. These become places where you take a break and talk to a friend or someone from another department. The formal operation becomes a social operation, and one of bringing in light.” 

The structure of the 126,000-square-foot project plays an important role in realizing the bright, open interior. The floor plates are poured-in-place biaxial voided slabs, or “bubbledeck” slabs. This technique, used for the first time in the United States, allows for integrated mechanical systems, including radiant heating and cooling. With lighter-than-typical floor slabs and zero ductwork, the interior could be more readily dedicated to programmed space.

The Visual Arts Building will be home to art history, ceramics, 3-D design, metal arts, sculpture, printmaking, painting and drawing, graphic design, multimedia, video art, and photography.

[As part of our 2016 Best of Design Awards, this project won 2016 Building of the Year > Midwest. Click here to learn more!]

Best of Design Awards

2016 Building of the Year > Midwest: University of Iowa Visual Arts Building by Steven Holl Architects

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013 Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it's grown to 26 exciting categoriesAs in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you.

2016 Building of the Year > Midwest: University of Iowa Visual Arts Building

Architect: Steven Holl Architects Location: Iowa City, IA

The new Visual Arts Building for the University of Iowa’s School of Art and Art History, which replaced a 1936 building that was heavily damaged by a flood, provides 126,000 square feet of loft-like studio space for all visual arts disciplines by utilizing both traditional techniques and advanced technologies. Alongside Art Building West—also designed by Steven Holl Architects and completed in 2006—the two structures define a visual arts campus for the theorizing, teaching, and making of art. Studios are open and visible to display each discipline’s practice and product, while seven vertical cutouts through the building’s horizontal floor plates maximize natural light and ventilation.

Associate Architect BNIM Architects

Structural Engineers BuroHappold, Structural Engineering Associates Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Design Engineers Zinc and perforated stainless-steel exterior skin RHEINZINK Glass Bendheim Architectural Glass Honorable Mention: Building of the Year > Midwest: Gordon Parks Arts Hall

Architect: Valerio Dewalt Train Associates Location: Chicago, IL

Reinterpreting the neo-gothic architecture of the University of Chicago’s neighboring buildings, the Gordon Parks Arts Hall celebrates the school’s commitment to hands-on learning with rooms designed to produce and present content.