Steven Holl: Pretheoretical ground (September 19, 1990)

Steven Holl, introduced by Michael Rotondi, describes a church in the middle of Norway as a metaphor for the overarching theme of his lecture. Holl describes his interest in tying form, concept, and site into a cohesive project that investigates phenomenological effects of design. He discusses Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Building and how the material finishes evoke ethereal associations.

Holl presents a series of houses in Cleveland, Dallas, Oxnard, and New York City that investigate what he terms “parallax.” His projects utilize program and diagram to rethink the typology of a house. He explains how the forces of economics, site, and concept all proved equal in the final designs. Holl discusses urban situations where similar ideas have functioned at a larger scale. These techniques, Holl argues, are imperative due to the shifting nature of the urban condition.

Holl discusses a project using voids and terraces to re-imagine “the positive aspects of modernist planning.” Holl describes housing projects in Venice and New York City and how their designs incorporated phenomenological effects. Holl also describes his intentions to create an architecture that reflects both absolute and compressed time.

Holl answers a series of questions. He contrasts the linguistic approach to architecture with–his preference–the phenomenological approach. Holl ends by talking about the excitement his built work brings him, commenting briefly on how economic factors push his work in different directions.

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