Steven Holl : NYU Department of Philosophy

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Those of us from the Bean know Steven Holl‘s academic work all too well, what with all the coverage his concrete ‘sponge’ [read : Simmon’s Hall] got in both the local and national media – and then ensuing debate over the building’s design.

In a more recent project, which just opened at the start of this school year, Holl investigates porosity yet again – but this time within a renovation/restoration project for NYU‘s Philosophy Department. Long story short? The concept is much iller as an insertion into a pre-existing structure – just look at the photos of the staircase to follow…thing is SIIICK.

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As I’ve already said, this time around Holl experimented with the insertion of a ‘porous’ stair into an existing 1890 building at 3-5 Washington Place. Leaving the historic exterior untouched, Holl’s aim was to give the Department of Philosophy a ‘luminous image’ with the new interiors – including faculty and graduate student offices, seminar rooms, a periodicals library & lounge and a ground floor 120-seat cork auditorium.

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In terms of the overall interior – those familiar with Holl’s work will recognize the design concepts being employed. In particular, doors become swinging and sliding walls – opening spaces to one another and creating new spaces, as opposed to simply creating a portal from one room to another. In addition – the upper level floors, containing the faculty offices and seminar rooms, have been designed in different shades and textures of black & white inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s book “Remarks on Color”. And, in true Steven Holl fashion, even the furniture and hardware – down to coat hooks and door handles – were designed by the architect. Ah – to be a ‘starchitect’ and get hired by a university…

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That staircase I keep mentioning is the real conceptual move – ‘a concept of the phenomenal properties of light and materials’ – with the insertion of a new stairwell volume. Sketched as an amorphous flowing tube of light, and realized as something similar, yet more angular, the stairwell is basically a giant skylight/lightwell – bringing daylight down into the building, and using the lighting – along with a dynamic and interesting staircase – to connect all the different floors/programs/users within the building.

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And as you can see – its pretty ill. The staircase is all white, reflecting all that natural light [and refracting it, in some place - check the rainbow effects] down into the building. It also changes direction at each level – making for a more dynamic experience while moving up and down the building, and [I would think] causing users to take notice of each individual level. The existing walls seem to have been left ‘as is’ [but painted white], adding to the feeling that the staircase has been pushed into an existing space – and the stairwell volume itself is punctured, both by the holes giving it the desired ‘porous’ feeling and by larger openings serving as windows into the various interior spaces.

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About this collaboration with NYU, Steven Holl says: “University buildings need to focus as incubators for interaction between students and faculty. It was a pleasure working with this university that was willing to broaden its design approach by including our staircase that now functions as the backbone of the building.”

::All images copyright Andy Ryan. Watercolors courtesy of Steven Holl Architects::

::Ed. Note: Thanks to Frank Lentini for thinking of architecture.MNP when sending out this press release::

Posted: October 4th, 2007
at 10:29am by orangemenace


Categories: architecture,featured ninjas,interiors,photographie

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