Steven Holl to design arts neighborhood academic buildings
The University has chosen Steven Holl Architects and BNIM Architects to design the academic buildings of the new arts and transportation neighborhood set to open in five to six years.
Steven Holl Architects will design several buildings to house the Program in Theater and Dance, parts of the Department of Music, the Lewis Center for the Arts and the Society of Fellows in the Creative and Performing Arts. The buildings will be built near the current intersection of University Place and Alexander Street.
The firm was recognized as America's Best Architect by Time magazine in July 2001. It also designed the award-winning renovation and expansion of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo.
Professor of architecture George Dutton '27 and former architecture school dean Ralph Lerner applauded the University's choice.
"[Steven Holl] is such a thoughtful architect," Lerner said. "He doesn't see architecture as a simple practice; he sees the nature of architecture as creating spaces that make people see things in fresh ways, bring fresh ideas to those spaces and interpret those spaces around it."
Holl's firm was chosen by the University after the withdrawal of Renzo Piano Building Workshop in April 2006. The firm felt it could no longer commit the time necessary for the arts project.
In selecting a replacement for the workshop, the University looked for a lesser-known firm to design the neighborhood. "We wanted an architect who really thought about this [arts neighborhood] as an important work in their portfolio of projects," Executive Vice President Mark Burstein said in October 2007. The President's Advisory Committee on Architecture, which convened last spring to select a firm, felt that Steven Holl Architects met this criterion.
"[Holl] is earlier in his career. His office is only just now getting notice, and he can earn a potential Pulitzer Prize for architecture. He's still very innovative in his work. He doesn't have a set style or palette," Burstein said.
The University hopes to gain zoning approval for the project from the Township and the Borough within a year.
"This is a very ambitious project to create a new part of campus that is welcoming to the surrounding community," Burstein said.
Despite his enthusiasm for Steven Holl Architects, Burstein said that for other parts of the arts and transportation neighborhood — the new dinky station, experimental media studio and art museum satellite — the University will strive to employ a variety of architectural firms.
"It would be more friendly and accessible to the community if the architecture were a bit more eclectic opposed to uniform," Burstein said.
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