At the Apex
Steve Holl receives architecture’s top honor

ARCHITECT STEVEN HOLL, ’71, was awarded the highest honor in his field—the American Institute of Architects 2012 Gold Medal.

Holl, a Bremerton native, is known for taking architecture into the realm of the poetic, even to the edge of what is physically possible. But he also takes seriously such practical matters as energy conservation.

Holl’s best-known works include an addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Modern Art in Kansas City, five interconnected structures that, like all of his projects, began with watercolor drawings. For Seattle University, Holl designed the Chapel of St. Ignatius.

Holl draws inspiration from nature and architectural forebears as well as from philosophers, historians and literary artists. A house on Martha’s Vineyard he designed, for example, was inspired by Melville and his whale.

Holl’s firm has offices in New York and Beijing. He is also a tenured professor at Columbia University.

“My time at the UW as very important in shaping my focus on architecture,” Holl says. He remembers valuable advice from people such as UW landscape architecture professor Richard Haag, who said, “Be the site.”

“Steven Holl consistently delivers news that stays news,” says Daniel Friedman, dean of the UW College of Built Environments, who nominated Holl for the medal. “His buildings embody a singular understanding of the relationship between utility and grace—always poetic, often sublime.”

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