Steven Holl, born in 1947, is an American architect and artist whose built work draws on contemporary theories of phenomenology. Instead of imposing a style on a site, he argued, the site itself should generate the “architectural idea” applied to it.
The Rough Start and the Success of Steven Holl
Holl was born on December 9, 1947, and grew up in Bremerton and Manchester, Washington. He graduated from the University of Washington and pursued architecture studies in Rome in 1970. Six years later he attended the Architectural Association in London and established his offices in New York City.
For ten years after moving to New York, Holl slept in his office on a plywood shelf above the entry, showering at the nearby YMCA. STEVEN HOLL ARCHITECTS now counts a 40-person office with partners the like of Chris McVoy, Noah Yaffe, and Roberto Bannura.
Alongside running his offices, Holl is also a tenured Professor at Columbia University’s of Architecture and Planning, he is married to the architect Dimitra Tsachrelia has one daughter.
A Blending of Light and Space with Contextual Sensitivity
Throughout his career, Holl’s architecture has undergone a shift in emphasis, from his earlier concern with typology to his more modern style of phenomenology.
Nonetheless, he is considered to be one of America’s most important architects, praised for his ability to blend space and light with great contextual sensitivity and to utilize the unique qualities of each project to create a concept-driven design. Lately, he specializes in seamlessly integrating new projects into contexts with particular cultural and historic importance.
A Prolific Career
Steven Holl’s career is prolific of masterful designs as well as exhibitions held all around the world and several published texts.
Holl’s work includes large buildings in many cities around the world, among them the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki; the Nanjing Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing, China; an addition to and renovation of the Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek (American Memorial Library) in Berlin and an annex to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Among his most recognized works are designs for the 2003 Simmons Hall at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the 2007 Bloch Building addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.
His later work concentrated on urban-scale mixed residential and commercial projects in China, notably the Linked Hybrid, a building complex containing apartments, hotels, schools, and restaurants in Beijing, and the Vanke Centre, a “horizontal skyscraper” in Shenzhen.
Steven Holl has been recognized with architecture’s most prestigious awards and prizes. In 1998 he was awarded the prestigious Alvar Aalto Medal and in 2000, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2003 Holl was named Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) while in 2002 the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institute, awarded him their prestigious National Design Award in Architecture. Recently he received the RIBA 2010 Jencks Award, the 2012 AIA Gold Medal, the first ever Arts Award of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards (2009) and the 2014 Praemium Imperiale.