Steven Holl

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


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
Family and Education
Holl was born on December 9, 1947 and grew up in Bremerton and Manchester, Washington.[2] 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 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.[3][4] 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
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.[5] 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.,[6] and Holl was named the 2012 AIA Gold Medal winner.[7] In 2014, Holl was awarded the Praemium Imperiale Prize for Architecture.[8] In 2016, Holl was named the 2016 laureate for The Daylight and Building Component Award for Daylight in Architecture.[9]

Holl is a tenured professor at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1981.[10] He frequently teaches on the relationship between music and architecture.[11]

Early works

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 the Chapel of St. Ignatius (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.[12] The plan of the chapel won a design award in the American Institute of Architects of New York. Holl designed the Chapel around St. Ignatius’s vision of the inner spiritual life, “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.

Significant works

Bellevue Arts Museum, Washington

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
Work Location Completed
Hybrid Building Seaside, Florida 1988
Void Space Housing, Nexus World Fukuoka, Japan 1991
Stretto House Dallas, Texas 1992
Storefront for Art and Architecture New York City 1993
Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University Seattle, Washington 1997
Cranbrook Institute of Science Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 1998
Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art Helsinki, Finland 1998
Sarphatistraat Offices Amsterdam, Netherlands 2000
Bellevue Arts Museum Bellevue, Washington 2001
Ralph Rapson Hall, College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minnesota 2002
Simmons Hall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachusetts 2002
Pratt Institute Higgins Hall Insertion Brooklyn, New York 2005
Lake Whitney Water Purification Facility and Park New Haven, Connecticut 2005
Turbulence House New Mexico 2005
Planar House Paradise Valley, Arizona 2005
University of Iowa School of Art and Art History Iowa City, Iowa 2006
Residence of the Ambassador of Switzerland Washington, DC 2006
Bloch Building expansion of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Kansas City, Missouri 2007
Linked Hybrid Beijing, China 2009
Knut Hamsun Centre (Hamsunsenteret) Nordland, Norway 2009
Herning Museum of Contemporary Art Herning, Denmark 2009
Horizontal Skyscraper – Vanke Center Shenzhen, China 2009
Cite de l’Ocean et du Surf, in collaboration with Solange Fabiao Biarritz, France 2011
Daeyang Gallery and House Seoul, South Korea 2012
Sliced Porosity Block – CapitaLand Raffles City Chengdu Chengdu, China 2012
Sifang Art Museum Nanjing, China 2013
Campbell Sports Center at Columbia University New York, New York 2013
Seona Reid Building Glasgow School of Art 2014
University of Iowa Visual Arts Building Iowa City, Iowa 2016
Princeton University Lewis Center for the Arts Princeton, New Jersey 2017
Maggie’s Centres Barts London, United Kingdom 2017
Institute for Contemporary Art, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Richmond, Virginia 2018 (in construction)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Glassell School of Art Houston, Texas 2018
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts addition Washington, DC 2019 (in construction)[13][14]
Competition selections
‘Sail Hybrid’ casino development, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (2005)
‘Horizontal Skyscraper’, Vanke Center, Shenzhen, China (2006)
‘Meander’, Taivallahti Residential Area, Helsinki, Finland (2006)
LM Project, Copenhagen, Denmark (2008)
Hangzhou Music Museum, Hangzhou, China (2009)
‘Shan-Shui’ masterplan, Hangzhou, China (2010)
Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art, Richmond, Virginia (2012) (in construction)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas (2012) (in construction)
Selected publications
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.

Pamphlet Architecture 5: Alphabetical City, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1980.
Pamphlet Architecture 9: Rural and Urban House Types, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1983.
Anchoring, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1989.
Steven Holl: Educating our Perception, in “Magic Materials II”, Daidalos, August 1995.
Intertwining, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1996.
Pamphlet Architecture 13: Edge of a City, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1996.
Pamphlet Architecture 1-10, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1998.
The Chapel of St. Ignatius, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1999.
Parallax, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2000
Steven Holl: Architecture Spoken, Rizzoli, 2007
House – Black Swan Theory, Princeton Architectural Press, 2007
Urbanisms: Working with Doubt, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009
Pamphlet Architecture 11-20, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2011.
Pamphlet Architecture 31: New Haiti Villages, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2011.
Steven Holl: Horizontal Skyscraper, William Stout Publishers, 2011
Steven Holl: Scale, Lars Mueller Publishers, 2012
Steven Holl: Color, Light and Time, with essays by Sanford Kwinter and Jordi Safont-Tria, Lars Mueller Publishers, 2012
Urban Hopes: Made in China by Steven Holl, edited by Christoph Kumpusch, Lars Mueller Publishers, 2013
Steven Holl, Robert McCarter, Phaidon, 2015
Lacayo, Richard. “The 10 Best (New and Upcoming) Architectural Marvels.” TIME. 13 December 2007.,9171,1694467,00.htm[permanent dead link]
“Bringing It Home,” Gray Magazine, No.29, Aug/Sept. 2016, p.149
Davidson, Justin. “Steven Holl, Agent of Enlightenment”. Architect. Architect Magazine. Retrieved 2017-07-21.
Sheftell, Jason (12 November 2010). “Get ready New York – Architect Steven Holl brings his brilliant award-winning designs to the city”. New York Daily News. New York. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards Archived 2010-03-26 at the Wayback Machine.
Design Futures Council Senior Fellows[permanent dead link]
Davidson, Justin. “Steven Holl, Agent of Enlightenment.” Architect Magazine: The Journal of the American Institute of Architects. 17 May 2012.
Madsen, Deane. “Steven Holl wins 2014 Praemium Imperiale Award.” Architect Magazine: The Journal of the American Institute of Architects. 16 July 2014.
”Laureates.” The Daylight Award. 8 September 2016.
“The Architectonics of Music.
Holl, Steven. The Chapel of St. Ignatius. New York: Princeton Architectural, 1999. Print.
“KC firm BNIM will help design $100 million expansion of Kennedy Center”. Archived from the original on 2013-04-06. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
The KEnnedy Center Expansion Project Website. “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2013-07-28. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
Fred Rush, On Architecture, Routledge, London and New York, 2007.
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.