Steven Holl is one of America’s greatest living architects, recognized for his experimentation with space and light in subtle forms that are sensitive to their context and environmentally sustainable. Pentagram has designed Steven Holl, a new monograph that offers a comprehensive overview of the architect’s works over the past four decades. Published by Phaidon, the book is richly illustrated with hundreds of photographs, drawings and other images, including Holl’s own remarkable watercolors.
The book is written by Robert McCarter, who has known and taught with Holl for 30 years, and provides an incredibly in-depth analysis of the architect’s design processes and ideas, as well as his methods and materials of construction. The challenge for the designers was to create a graphic system that would help organize all of this material.
The designers established a rigorous yet flexible grid that ties into the strong structural geometry of Holl’s architecture. The book sections his career into five eras, with each chapter tied to different themes that have guided his work: “Archetype / Experience” (1974-1990), “Anchoring / Intertwining” (1990-1998), “Luminosity / Porosity” (1998-2005), and so on. The opening spreads of each section map these periods on a timeline that runs along the right side. The chapters are further divided into built and unbuilt designs, and signature projects like the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, St. Ignatius Chapel at the University of Seattle, and Simmons Hall at MIT are described in extensive case studies. Experiential “walk-throughs” of the buildings place the reader within the spaces and describe how they act to engage all the sense.
Holl creates beautiful concept watercolors and sketches while designing his buildings, and two of these have been reproduced on paper at actual size and inlaid in the front and back cover. (Holl does these on a small 5” by 7” sketch pad so he can work during flights.) The front cover features a watercolor from the 2013 competition for the Qingdao Culture and Art Center, for which he won first place. The book opens with a diagram of the Golden Section, or Fibonacci Series, the proportioning system that has been employed by Holl in designing all of his projects from the start of his career and ties together all of his works.