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Steven Holl: Compression (September 11, 2003)01:22:11

Steven Holl, introduced by Eric Moss, begins his lecture by questioning the state of his present work, and his reluctance to show it at all. He describes his search for irreducible things that exist outside of the discipline of architecture. Holl states his belief that architecture is a heuristc device through which we articulate minimal utopian ideals. He stresses the need to break away from habitual ways of thinking and find new ways of working that take inspiration from outside architecture.

Holl describes several competitions, including Venice’s Palazzo del Cinema and MIT student dormitories, as attempts to compress time and scale through architectural devices. Holl describes how irreducible objects might influence concept and form simultaneously. He describes how he strives for scaleless forms and anti-contextual architecture through programmatic integration.

Holl further describes his view of “compression” as the simultaneous influence of multiple irreducible elements on a built form. He discusses psychological associations and the need of architects to mine these. Holl describes the Whitney Water Purification Plant in New Haven, several houses, and the Loisium winery and hotel in Austria, in terms of the mystical, multivalent elements of architecture.

Holl presents a series of works which dealt with Manhattan, including his World Trade Center Competition entry with Richard Meier, Peter Eisenman, and Charles Gwathmey. He discusses projects that attempt to incorporate elements of structure, form, skin, transparency, and the void, specifically the Cornell School of Architecture building.

Holl ends by discussing diagrams, Colin Rowe, and the differences between classical, modern, and Twenty-first century architectures. He stresses his desire to discover and manipulate the irreducible elements that give architecture power. He ends his lecture by answering questions about his ideas of compression and layering elements. Holl also talks about his drawing technique and how it influences his architectural design.