Three Key Things to Remember When Photographing A Steven Holl Building

Univ. of Iowa - (C) 2017 Jerry Swanson Photogprahy - Steven Holl Architect

The Entire Experience When Visiting Or Walking Through A Holl Building Becomes An Event

Just after its completion last spring, I ventured south on I-35 to photograph Steven Holl’s latest creation – The University of Iowa’s Visual Arts Building. This building is also the 2017 Design Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter. I have been a fan of Steven’s for years because his buildings represent not only new concepts and ideas in the world of architecture, but they continue to win numerous awards and provide the viewer/explorer an amazing experience. Below are a few things you want to remember to capture when photographing a Steven Holl building.

#1: Research the architect first and then capture the viewers entire experience.

Don’t know much about Steven and his work? Well, Holl was born in the late 40’s and grew up in Bremerton and Manchester in Washington state. As a tenured professor at Columbia University, Steven frequently teaches on the relationship between music and architecture. He works non-stop creating these incredible architectural structures with his team of 40 in New York City. Although I haven’t had a chance to sit in on one of Steven’s lectures or visit him at his offices, I have been following and photographing his work for years.

One of the most important elements the viewer experiences when visiting or walking through one of his buildings, is that the experience becomes an event. It is important to photograph the building as if it was the first time you have seen it, so you can capture the views “experience or engagement” they have with the structure.

University of Iowa - Steven Holl Architect
© 2016 Jerry Swanson Photography – University of Iowa Visual Arts Building – Steven Holl, Architect

#2: Capture the movement of music within the architecture, the natural light, and the sustainability elements used.

In every building Steven designs you can see the movement of music within his architecture, his creative use of natural light, and his push to create sustainable buildings. One of Holl’s latest renderings for a future project Rubenstein Commons – Institute For Advanced Study, indicates how light will move across the building’s surfaces and penetrate through the windows into the interior space. To showcase this type of architectural technique, you will want to photograph the building at the right angle – during the appropriate time of day – to capture the dramatic effect the architect is envisioning.

© Steven Holl - IAS-WC - Curved Light Rendering
© Steven Holl – IAS-WC – Curved Light Rendering

In addition, you will want to capture any sustainable technologies used by the architect.This is critical as we move to a society that is in need to use energy from sustainable and natural resources.The Visual Arts Building is the first building in the United States to integrate radiant floor heating and cooling within a bubble voided slab foundation reducing the amount of concrete by 30%. Unfortunately, I was not onsite during the construction of the building, however I was able to showcase Steven’s use of sustainable technology on the building’s rooftop.

University of Iowa
© 2016 Jerry Swanson Photography – University of Iowa Visual Arts Building – Steven Holl, Architect

When shooting The University of Iowa School of Art and Art History years ago, I was able to capture how Holl’s vertical centers of light are carved out of the building’s volume, filling the interior with natural light and ventilation. These signature elements continue to be used by Holl in every building that he designs.

Architect Steven Holl
© 2016 Jerry Swanson Photography – Iowa School of Art and Art History – Steven Holl, Architect

#3: Understand how the “prismatic glass” is built and showcase the sense of transparency.

Several years ago, I was hired by the Pilkington Manufacturing Company to photograph their windows which were used by Steven Holl for the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History. The company told me that during the glass manufacturing process, frosted and transparent glass are combined so the architect/builder can give a building’s window walls an iridescent, transparent appearance. To capture this prismatic glass – transparency effect, it is best to photograph the outside exterior during dusk hours and photograph interior spaces during mid-day.

© 2016 Jerry Swanson Photography - Iowa School of Art and Art History - Steven Holl, Architect
© 2016 Jerry Swanson Photography – Iowa School of Art and Art History – Steven Holl, Architect

 

© 2016 Jerry Swanson Photography - Iowa School of Art and Art History - Steven Holl, Architect
© 2016 Jerry Swanson Photography – Iowa School of Art and Art History – Steven Holl, Architect

Loving Great Architecture And Enjoying An Architects Creation

If you are a lover of great architect or new to the industry of architectural photography, it is always important to understand the architects vision for the project and the core architectural design techniques he or she likes to use in their work. Good research prior to going on location for any client will be critical to the success of your project and those people who are viewing your imagery.

Can’t get enough of Steven Holl or this amazing glass, visit Holl’s website and his recent building – Pratt Institute, Higgins Hal Insertion – or check out more of his great work on swansonphoto.com.

 

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