The design process of any building culminates in the act of construction and subsequent operation. It is here that ideas become physical, materials take shape, and good intentions must stand their reality test. From the chaos of the construction site arises beauty, and lasting impressions are created among those who use and inhabit the building. The daylight and indoor climate inside the spaces, which until then only existed in the architect’s mind and the engineers’ calculations, can now be seen and felt for the first time.
The following photographs of key works by Steven Holl remind us of a stance that the architect expressed in an interview in 2002: "The real test of architecture is the phenomena of the body moving through spaces, which can be sensed and felt regardless of understanding the architect’s concept and philosophy.”
‘The stone and the feather’ was the motto of this museum extension, which ranks among Steven Holl’s finest buildings. The ‘stone’ denotes the neoclassical, heavy 1933 lime stone main building of the museum while the ‘feather’ consists of five luminous, partly underground pavilions clad in translucent glass that Steven Holl added along the perimeter of the museum grounds. These are linked by a continuous sequence of galleries and ramps that receive diffuse natural daylight through clerestory rooflights overhead.
Steven Holl’s first major international commission, this museum building reacts to its unique setting at the intersection of city and nature, between the train station, the Finnish parliament building and Töölö Lake. The building concept is based on the ‘intertwining’ (a notion that Holl also discussed in one of his earliest books) of two large volumes that flank a central, daylit atrium with access ramp. According to the architects, “the general character of the rooms, which are almost rectangular with one wall curved, allows for a silent yet dramatic backdrop for the exhibition of contemporary art. These rooms are meant to be silent, but not static; they are differentiated through their irregularity.”
The curving roof forms of the chapel provide the sanctuary with six different qualities of light, each calibrated to illuminate a separate aspect of the religious ritual. On one hand, daylight directly enters through small coloured glass lenses (a modern interpre-tation of Gothic stained windows). On the other, it is introduced indirectly through larger openings with clear glass. This mix of different forms of light gently grazes the surfaces of ceilings and walls, which were given their characteristic checker-board structure with the help of the mason’s toothed trowel.
This article is featured in D/A magazine #27, for more information visit DA.VELUX.com.