Steven Holl Watercolours @ Salone Milan 2018

Steven Holl Watercolours @ Salone Milan 2018

Architect Steven Holl and renowned Milanese gallerist Antonia Jannone first met in the late Seventies, at her space in Corso Garibaldi.

At the time Jannone was building her reputation for showing drawings, projects, models and prints by well-known Italian and international architects, the young architect meanwhile, was visiting the city and wanted to show Jannone his drawings.

‘At the time I was not so interested,’ recalls Jannone matter-of-factly remembering their first meeting, ‘I was working with architects like Aldo Rossi and Ettore Sottsass and was busy with them.’

They had promised to find themselves again …… one day.

It wasn’t until almost 40 years later, when editor and curator Marco Sammicheli reintroduced the idea of a Holl exhibit, that Jannone rediscovered his work and fell in love with the depth of his watercolours.

Sammicheli, who had followed the work of Holl since studying for his Phd, met the architect himself in 2015 when Holl was in town to receive an honorary degree from the Politecnico di Milano.

He told me the story about Antonia” explains Sammicheli, and so I got in touch with her and asked her to meet us.

Steven was very happy but very shy at first – it was beautiful to see how they were interacting with each other after so many years. Antonia remembered perfectly their first meeting, and so I said: “ I think after so many years it’s time to do a show together ”.’

One Two Five by Stephen Holl – is the name of an art show where the act of creating is a primary and continuous process.

Known internationally for his important contribution to contemporary architecture, American architect Steven Holl’s first official exhibition in Italy and in Milan, showcased a selection of his works including 26 watercolours, 13 prints (signed and numbered), some limited-edition design objects and sculptures.

In particular, there was a beautiful representation of Steven Holl’s watercolours, his signature step during the creative process, celebrating the expression of eight projects, some which have not been realised.

Steven Holl does not overlook the role of digital technology in the project development and representation.

He does not stigmatize it, or deem it indispensable. To him it’s an intermediary tool, secondary to the drawing, which defines, composes, and communicates his concept. No computer is yet able to perform these actions.

Only drawing allows Holl to find the wealth of nuances and possibilities required by the creative architectural process, from concept to realization.

The visceral drive to count, measure, and explore, perhaps by overlooking the figures or skipping them to retrace a sequence, is nothing other than an instrument for thought and investigation.

Over his forty years plus of activity, and two hundred and fifty projects, seventy of which located world-wide, every building ever created by Steven Holl was conceived, studied and configured from an initial drawing – usually a watercolor sketch on standard 5 x 7 cm spiral-bound paper pad.

About thirty thousand of these drawings exist today, and are stored in his New York studio. These lively renderings combine light, space, color, and just a few words to define the concept.

Although many ideas illustrated in these watercolors did not become a reality, all drawings effectively demonstrate architect Holl’s daily creative process and approach to summarizing thoughts, and solutions.


With the watercolor, in the quickest way, I can shape a volume, cast a shadow, indicate the direction of the sun in a very small format. And I can carry these things around because I am always traveling

I used to do pencil drawings. Those took eight hours. Around 1979, I streamlined it to five-by-seven-inch watercolors, because they were easy to travel with ”  …………. Steven Holl


In addition to a set of A chairs designed in 1980 designed for the exhibition of the Pamphlet Architecture Reading Room in New York, Sammicheli has included two specially commissioned sculptures.

Made from stone, the sculptures sit both inside and outside of the gallery and are called ‘one two five’ after the Golden mean used by artists such as Michaelangelo and Picasso.

No other place is better than this for the show, ”  says Sammicheli looking around the space, ” it’s in the history of Milan – it’s a shrine and well known architects make pilgrimages here.

A highly-anticipated exhibition, this Milan show is an absolute official first by Steven Holl in Italy and focuses on his signature style: watercolor.

The collection of watercolours on show are all original and most have never exhibited before.

Works include both recent and historical projects, from Porta Vittoria Park and Botanical Gardens – a competition from 1986, to sketches of Holl’s Maggie’s Centre in London, which opened last year.

Small details on Holl’s canvases such as clip marks where Holl pulled the paper taught, scribbled notes and even taped humorous newspaper cuttings offer an insight into his working process.

About thirty works in all, in addition to the watercolors, the show includes project sketches, limited edition furnishings and sculptures, some of which clearly trace back to the strong bond between Steven Holl and Italy.

A bond formed when Holl moved to Rome in 1970 to continue his studies, thanks to a scholarship awarded after he graduated from the University of Washington.

Each is a study of Holl’s new sculptures cut from 21 million year old Lecce stone.

Both five part sections reflect on the two basic types of sculpture; subtractive and additive.

The space between is the focus.

The selected drawings – a fundamental tool for Steven Holl, both in presenting a concept and in its development – narrate eight projects, some unrealized, all filled with the extraordinarily expressive and poetic quality of his unique style.

The relationship between Steven Holl and Italy was therefore segmented and parallel until 2015, when the architect received the Honorary Degree in Architecture from the Milan Polytechnic.


A – CHAIR, 1980

SIZE: 28 w x 18 d x 41.25 h inches
MANUFACTURER: Schmidinger Möbelbau

The ‘A’ Chair was designed for the exhibition of the Pamphlet Architecture Reading Room, “Exhibit A,” which opened in New York, September 1980.

“Exhibit A” included chairs and pamphlets by Steven Holl, Zaha Hadid, Mark Mack, Jim Jennings, Lars Lerup, Mike Metz, Livio Dimitriu, Anthony Pellecchia, Lebbeus Woods, Lawrence Rouch, William Stout, and James Holl.

Designed as a corner chair, the ‘A’ Chair transforms to a tower in a group of four back-to-back, or to a public square in a group of four facing each other.

Since 1990 several chairs have been made by Schmidinger Möbelbau and are still available to order.



Carpet watercolours from Maggie’s Centre in Barts UK




Some of the projects on exhibit:


















The site in the center of London is adjacent to the large courtyard of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Founded in Smith eld in the 12th century, the hospital is the oldest in London
and was founded at the same time as the St. Bartholomew the Great Church in 1123. Rahere founded the church and hospital “for the restoration of poor men.”

Layers of history characterize this unique site, connecting deeply to the Medieval culture of London.

While most all of the realized Maggie’s Centres have been horizontal buildings, the centre at St Bartholomew’s is more vertical, sitting on the historically charged site.

It replaces a pragmatic 1960s brick structure adjacent to a 17th century stone structure by James Gibbs, holding the “Great Hall” and the famous Hogarth staircase.

The building is envisioned as a “vessel within a vessel within a vessel.”

The structure is a branching concrete frame, the inner layer is perforated bamboo and the outer layer is matte white glass with colored glass fragments recalling “neume notation” of Medieval music of the 13th century.

The word neume originates from the Greek pnevma, which means ‘vital force.’ It suggests a ‘breath of life’ that lls oneself with inspiration like a stream of air, the blowing of the wind.

The outer glass layer is organized in horizontal bands like a musical staff while the concrete structure branches like the hand.









Additional Watercolours presented


museum of human evolution 2000



taos 2000


white bones rotting in the rain



Antonia Jannone Gallery

Corso Garibaldi 125, Milan



About Stephen Holl

Steven Holl was born in 1947 in Bremerton, Washington.

He graduated from the University of Washington and pursued architecture studies in Rome in 1970.

In 1976, he joined the Architectural Association in London and established STEVEN HOLL ARCHITECTS in New York City.

As founder and principal of Steven Holl Architects, Steven Holl is the designer of all projects ongoing in the office.

Considered one of America’s most important architects, he is recognized for his ability to blend space and light with great contextual sensitivity and to utilize the unique qualities of each project to create a concept-driven design.

He specializes in seamlessly integrating new projects into contexts with particular cultural and historic importance.


Steven Holl has realized cultural, civic, academic and residential projects both in the United States and internationally including —

the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland (1998); the Chapel of St. Ignatius, Seattle, Washington (1997); Simmons Hall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts (2002); the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri (2007); the Horizontal Skyscraper in Shenzhen, China (2009); the Herning Museum of Contemporary Art in Herning, Denmark (2009); and the Linked Hybrid mixedusecomplex in Beijing, China (2009); Cité de l’Océan et du Surf in Biarritz, France (2011); the Reid Building at the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Scotland (2014), the Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa (2016); the Lewis Arts Complex at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey (2017); and Maggie’s Centre Barts in London, England (2017).

Currently under construction, is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Expansion in Washington DC (opening 2018), the Institute For Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia (opening 2018), the Hunters Point Community Library in Queens, New York (opening 2019), and the extension of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in Houston, Texas (opening 2019).

Recently Steven Holl Architects was commissioned to complete the new Rubenstein Commons Building for the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and the Geneva Operational Centre for Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Steven Holl has been recognized with architecture’s most prestigious awards and prizes.

Steven Holl received the inaugural Velux Daylight Award for Daylight in Architecture in 2016, the 2014 Praemium Imperiale International Arts Award for Architecture, the 2012 AIA Gold Medal, the RIBA 2010 Jencks Award, and the first ever Arts Award of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards (2009).

In 2006 Steven Holl received honorary degrees from Seattle University and Moholy-Nagy University in Budapest.




About Marco Sammicheli

Marco Sammicheli (Italy, 1979) is a free-lance curator, a design professional and contract professor at the School of Design at the Politecnico di Milano.

After graduating in Communication Science from the University of Siena and specializing in History of Design at the Bauhaus in Weimar, in 2009 he earned a doctorate in design and technology for the development of cultural heritage at the Politecnico di Milano.

He wrote monographs on architects Zaha Hadid, Mario Bellini and essays on catalogs for many institutions and museums.

After serving as the editor-in-chief of the magazine Zero he worked as design editor for Abitare from 2014 to 2017.

He is a columnist for La Domenica – Il Sole 24 Ore and writes for Casa Vogue, Wallpaper and Icon.

In 2014 he participated in the International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale and since 2012 he has curated several projects for the Museo del Novecento in Milan, Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Milan, the Triennale di Milano, Assab One, m.a.x. museo, Massimo Minini and Camp Design galleries.

He is an adviser of the Medaglia d’Oro all’Architettura Italiana, chancellor of The Design Prize and nominator of Beazley Design of the Year.

He promoted a residency program for designers at the Italian Embassy in Copenhagen (2016-to the present) where he is been appointed Ambassador for Italian Design in Denmark by the Minister of Foreing Affair.

He is a member of the board of Fondazione Massimo e Sonia Cirulli (Bologna/New York) and founder of Mostro – graphic design camp, a festival devoted to graphic arts and visual communication.



About Galleria Antonia Jannone

Antonia Jannone opened her gallery in 1979, deciding to focus on architectural drawings: a form of art that could break out from the more rigorous approach to planning and design and provide a form of expression for the more intimate and poetic side of architects.

Since then she has become a cultural reference point, creating projects with some of the biggest Italian and international names in architecture including Ettore  Sottsass, Aldo  Rossi,  Vittorio  Gregotti,  Alvaro  Siza,  Andrea  Branzi, Michele De Lucchi, Ugo La Pietra, Mario Botta and Aldo Cibic.

Her calendar of architecture–related events are accompanied by exhibitions and projects dedicated to photography (from Ferdinando Scianna to Carlo Orsi), painting, sculpture and design.

The gallery, located in Corso Garibaldi 125 in Milan, looks out onto a courtyard filled with luscious greenery.


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