Steven Holl Awarded 2012 AIA Gold Medal

The board of directors of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) voted to award the 2012 AIA Gold Medal to Steven Holl, FAIA. The AIA Gold Medal, which honors an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture, is considered to be the profession’s highest honor that an individual can receive. Holl, the 68th recipient of the award, will be honored at the 2012 AIA National Convention in Washington, D.C.

“I am grateful, I am still beginning and I consider this award shared with all my collaborators,” states Holl. “I feel this award is a positive advocacy to make theoretical explorations and experimental works. I was on the way to my final review at Columbia University when I received the call from Washington, D.C. and felt it connected to my teaching and efforts toward education. I remember John Hejduk’s statement that teaching is a social contract, and I remain committed to teaching.”

According to the AIA, Holl and his firm, Steven Holl Architects, which he leads with partner Chris McVoy, have completed projects “that tackle the urban-scale planning and development conundrums that define success in the built environment throughout the world.” Two his projects include Linked Hybrid in Beijing, which is a series of circularly arranged towers, filled with 700 apartments and other ancillary programming including hotels, schools, restaurants and park spaces. The towers are linked by a system of 20th floor skywalks that trace a ring of public programs. As AIA notes, “In contrast to the mega-block street walls typically erected by Chinese developers, the Hybrid invites the city in with green space, public programs, and playfully varied porous massing.”

Likewise, the Vanke Center in Shenzhen has been described as a horizontal skyscraper: a long rectilinear mass tipped on its side with arms and branches reaching out from its main stem. The building hovers above garden and park spaces on eight legs, creating a shaded micro-climate and quality public outdoor space.

In addition to China, Holl’s work can be seen throughout the world. Other projects include:

The Nelson Atkins Museum Bloch Building in Kansas City, Mo., a subterranean art museum expansion that pierces the ground plane with five translucent boxes that materialize light like blocks of ice.

MIT’s Simmons Hall in Cambridge, Mass., a dormitory that Holl used to develop his ideas about urban porosity, later seen in his Chinese projects. Based around the conceptual motif of a sponge, the building features irregular volumetric gaps and transparencies, as well as vertical, funnel-shaped incisions that act as light and air chimneys.

The Knut Hamsun Center in Norway, a historical museum honoring the Norwegian writer that takes cues from Hamsun’s work to create a wooded vernacular-referenced façade pierced by walkways and glass observation decks, literary symbols of hidden impulses.

NYU’s Department of Philosophy in New York City, which redesigns the interior of a historic masonry building and inserts an open six-story light shaft, taking formal and conceptual guidance from the work of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Pratt Institute’s Higgins Hall Insertion, an addition to Pratt’s architecture school, in New York City, that join two red brick buildings with a glowing bar-shaped volume of varying transparency and opacity.

As Harry Cobb, FAIA, of Pei Cobb Freed, wrote in a recommendation letter, “What, in my view, especially commends him as a candidate for the Gold Medal is his brilliantly demonstrated capacity to join his refined design sensibility to a rigorously exploratory theoretical project.”