Steven Holl

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Steven Holl
Architect Steven Holl at Kiasma.jpg
Architect Steven Holl on the second-floor balcony in 2008
Born (1947-12-09) December 9, 1947 (age 68)
Bremerton, Washington
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Washington
Architectural Association School of Architecture
Occupation Architect
Awards Alvar Aalto Medal (1998)
BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2008)
AIA Gold Medal (2012)
Praemium Imperiale (2014)
Practice Steven Holl Architects
Buildings Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum, Helsinki, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Linked Hybrid, Beijing, Knut Hamsun Center, Hamarøy, Norway

Steven Holl (born December 9, 1947) is a New York-based American architect and watercolorist, best known for his 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,[1] and the 2009 Linked Hybrid mixed-use complex in Beijing, China.[1]

Early works[edit]

Kiasma, Helsinki, 1993-1998

Holl won first prize in the Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek International Library Design Competition in 1988, an expansion and renovation of the American Memorial Library in Berlin. In February, 1989 Holl's work was exhibited in a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. MoMA later purchased twenty-five works by Holl for the museum's permanent collection. In the 1992 competition for a new contemporary arts museum in Helsinki, Finland, Holl's entry, entitled "Chiasma," won first prize out of more than five hundred international entries. The museum opened to the public in 1998, having permanently adopted the name "Kiasma," the Finnish translation of "chiasma."

In designing St. Ignatius Chapel (built 1994-1997), Jesuit chapel at Seattle University, Holl addressed the campus's need for green space by siting the chapel in the center of a former street and elongating the building plan. New green campus quadrangles were formed to the north, west, and south, and a future quadrangle is planned to the east. [2] The plan of the chapel won a design award in the American Institute of Architects of New York. Holl designed the Chapel to symbolize "seven bottles of light in a stone box," by creating seven volumes of different light. Each volume represents a different part of Jesuit Catholic worship, and has differently colored glass so that various parts of the building are marked out by colored light. Light sources are tinted both in this way and by indirect reflection from painted surfaces, and each is paired with its complementary color.


Steven Holl's design for Simmons Hall of MIT won the Harleston Parker Medal in 2004.
Bloch Addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Holl graduated from the University of Washington and pursued architecture studies in Rome in 1970. In 1976, he attended graduate school at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and established his offices New York City. Steven Holl leads his 40-person office with partners Chris McVoy and Noah Yaffe. Holl has taught at Columbia University since 1981.

Holl's architecture has undergone a shift in emphasis, from his earlier concern with typology to his current concern with a phenomenological approach; that is, with a concern for man's existentialist, bodily engagement with his surroundings. The shift came about partly due to his interest in the writings of philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty and architect-theorist Juhani Pallasmaa.

Recognition and awards[edit]

In 1998 Holl was awarded the prestigious Alvar Aalto Medal. In 2000, Holl was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In July 2001, Time named Holl America’s Best Architect, for "buildings that satisfy the spirit as well as the eye." Other awards and distinctions include the best architectural design in New York for The Pace Collection showroom in 1986 from the American Institute of Architects, the New York American Institute of Architects Medal of Honor (1997), the French Grande Médaille d’Or (2001), the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture (2002), Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (2003), the Arnold W. Brunner Prize in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2008 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Arts category.[3] In 2007, Steven Holl Architects received the AIA Institute Honor Award and the AIA New York Chapter Architecture Merit Award for Art Building West for the School of Art and Art History (University of Iowa, Iowa City). The Higgins Hall Insertion at Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, New York) and the New Residence at the Swiss Embassy both received the AIA New York Chapter Architecture Honor Award in 2007. In 2010, Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, (Herning, Denmark) was awarded the RIBA International Award. The Horizontal Skyscraper-Vanke Center received the 2011 AIA Institute National Honor Award, as well as the AIA NY Honor Award. In 2011, he was named a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council.,[4] and Holl was named the 2012 AIA Gold Medal winner.[5] In 2014, Holl was awarded the Praemium Imperiale Prize for Architecture.[6]

Notable works[edit]

Bellevue Arts Museum, Washington
Pratt Institute Higgins Hall, Brooklyn, NY
Bloch Building expansion of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri
Clara Weatherall, Laura Lee, Steven Holl, Pierre Goad, Daisy Goodwin and Alwen Williams celebrate the start of construction of new Maggie's Barts, St Bartholomew's Hospital building. © Thomas Alexander Photography on behalf of Maggie’s

Competition selections[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

Along with Pallasmaa and Alberto Perez-Gomez, Holl wrote essays for a 1994 special issue of the Japanese architectural journal A+U under the title "Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture." The publication was reissued as a book in 2006.


  1. ^ a b Lacayo, Richard. "The 10 Best (New and Upcoming) Architectural Marvels." TIME. 13 December 2007.,9171,1694467,00.htm
  2. ^ Holl, Steven. The Chapel of St. Ignatius. New York: Princeton Architectural, 1999. Print.
  3. ^ BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards
  4. ^ Design Futures Council Senior Fellows
  5. ^ Davidson, Justin. "Steven Holl, Agent of Enlightenment." Architect Magazine: The Journal of the American Institute of Architects. 17 May 2012.
  6. ^ Madsen, Deane. "Steven Holl wins 2014 Praemium Imperiale Award." Architect Magazine: The Journal of the American Institute of Architects. 16 July 2014.
  7. ^ "KC firm BNIM will help design $100 million expansion of Kennedy Center". Retrieved 2013-04-05. [dead link]
  8. ^ The KEnnedy Center Expansion Project Website.


  • Scott Drake, “The Chiasm and the experience of space”, JAE, Nov. 2005, vol.59, iss. 2, 53-59.
  • Alberto Perez-Gomez, Juhani Pallasmaa, Steven Holl, Questions of Perception. Phenomenology of Architecture, William K. Stout Pub., San Francisco, 2006 (2nd edition).
  • Alberto Perez-Gomez, “The architecture of Steven Holl: In search of a poetry of specifics”, El Croquis 93, 1999.
  • Philip Jodidio, Architecture Now!, Icons, Taschen, New York, 2002.
  • Gareth Griffiths, "Steven Holl and His Critics", Ptah, Helsinki, 2006.
  • Nancy Marmer, "Holl's Kiasma Debuts in Helsinki," Art in America, October 1998, p. 35.

External links[edit]