Total Projects from Steven Holl: 12
He began his career in practice in California, but opened his office in New York in 1976. Early projects included a few good-taste interiors, but his first truly influential building came with the remarkable Berkowitz Odgis House in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts (1988). This single-storey building reinterprets the balloon frame, with a veranda playing vertiginous games with views out to the ocean and back to and through the house itself.
An eclectic portfolio of housing followed, including his Void Space/Hinged Space housing in Fukuoka, Japan (1991); the Stretto House in Dallas (1992); and the Makuhari Housing in Chiba, Japan (1996). A major breakthrough was the Jesuit Chapel of St Ignatius at Seattle University (1997), where Holl created a series of geometric volumes, each bringing a different quality of natural light into the chapel to dramatize the various aspects of the Jesuit ritual. Holl used coloured glass to create a concept he describes as 'seven bottles of light in a stone box'. These bottles not only create amazing effects within the interior, but shine out across the campus at night as coloured beacons. His big break - the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum in Helsinki, won in an open international competition - was to continue in this vein. Completed in 1998, Kiasma made Holl the first US winner of the Alvar Aalto Medal - one of Finland's highest architectural honours - and confirmed his reputation as a creator of theatrical and intense interiors in a building that also dealt with an incredibly difficult site at a motorway intersection.
More recent work perhaps shows Holl's desire to place himself in context. His Simons Hall student residence at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2003) is a bold perforated megastructure with a disorientating scale worthy of Rem Koolhaas. Perhaps most significantly, in the 2002 com¬petition for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center, he formed a team with three members of the 'New York Five' group who dominated US architecture in the 1950s and 1960s - Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey and Richard Meier. Their scheme was not shortlisted, but Holl became an outspoken critic of the process, showing that he is one of the least paro¬chial practitioners in the US, calling for US architecture to learn from the European model of procuring major public works - the open architectural competition with an informed jury.
Holl is still relatively young for an architect. What he lacks in Gehry-style bombast, he makes up for in his adaptability and invention. The question that remains is whether such a stylistic chameleon will ever have a coherent body of work. Perhaps it is best that he does not.
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