September 29, 2009

Steven Holl Architects Wins Glasgow School of Art Design Competition

by Lucas Gray

The Glasgow School of Art has announced Steven Holl Architects as the winner of the international design competition for the new school facility to be located opposite the famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh building in Garnethill, Glasgow. The competition entry was submitted as a collaboration between Steven Holl Architects and Glasgow-based JM Architects, and was selected from a field of over 150 international firms. Their brief is now to rework the master plan of the site and to design and deliver phase 1, a new building for the urban campus. The building is set to be opened for the 2013/14 school year. The new design aims to both increase the interaction between the school and the public while enhancing the school's learning and research facilities. The competition was held to select an architect to proceed with the design of the project rather than to chose a specific design, with Steven Holl's selection being a unanimous decision by the competition committee. 

“The Selection Committee considered that Steven Holl Architects’ work showed a poetic use of light and their submission demonstrated a singular creative vision, scale of ambition, profound clarity and a respectful rivalry for the Mackintosh Building. The Committee believed that Holl’s approach to the craft of building, his understanding of the opportunities of new technology and an enjoyment of the challenges of sustainable design, promised a great step forward in the development of architecture in an urban setting.”

Steven Holl Architects, with offices in New York and Beijing, is one of the leading design practices in the world with award winning projects spanning the globe. Winner of numerous prestigious prizes their work is consistently innovative, beautiful, elegant and inspirational while maintaining a dedication to sustainable design. A couple of their recent projects of note include the award winning Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and the Linked Hybrid in Beijing. Known for their phenomenological approach to design, their work is based on the experience of building materials and their sensory properties while engaging the users in an emotional and sensory way. The manipulation of light and space is of particular note in their body of work.

Like in many of Holl's previous projects, the manipulation of light became a defining feature in this proposal; offering various qualities of light related to the interior function of the space. Their complex section demonstrated a variety of spaces, each with a unique connection to natural daylight, while also creating inter-connectivity between parts of the building. This fosters a collaborative environment central to the workings of the school. This attention to the section design as a means of bringing light into the complex interior, is closely related to Mackintosh's original masterpiece. To address issues of sustainability, the proposed facade will consist of 100 percent recycled glass. They have also proposed an intelligent solar cavity, within the facade enclosure, that will harvest heat in winter and cooling in summer. This seems like a rather vague concept at the moment but knowing Holl's past work it is sure to be both beautiful and elegantly designed. Responding to the urban context, the ground floor of the future building will open up to the city allowing a close connection between the school and community.

“100 years after completion, Mackintosh’s building continues to inspire as a work of architecture and a place to make art. The invention of an original architectural language is as fresh today as it was then. Its intensity of detail, light and material calls for the highest aspirations of a phenomenologically-driven architecture of our time. We feel the urgency of recovering the integral action of “thinking and making” in the use of the highest new technologies available. We imagine the new Glasgow School of Art to be a celebration of Knowledge: the phenomenological and experiential joys of perception supercharged by the techniques of tomorrow.”
- Steven Holl

For more information on Steven Holl Architects, please visit
For more information on the Glasgow School of Art, please visit
For more information on JM Architects, please visit

Books by Steven Holl: Parallax, Intertwining, Anchoring, and Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture


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