Page D3.2 . 07 May 2003                     
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    Holl Architecture School at Minnesota


    Form and Materials

    In form, the new building consists of two interlocking L-shaped masses, a formal expression of the integration of the two schools. The glazed ends of the ells terminate campus circulation routes. According to Holl, the glazing is intended to generate "shafts of space" which can be experienced as view corridors while walking on campus or as enclosures of light while working within.

    The four arms of the building embrace four gardens, each to express a different season. Conversely, the four gardens may, when completed, be seen as embracing the four arms of the building: a neat figure-ground echo of the idea of integration.

    Clad in copper with extensive use of structural, translucent glass, the building acts as a counterpoint to an existing facility, designed in the late 1950s by Roy Norman Thorshov and Robert Cerny. The older building's square symmetry finds its opposite in the asymmetrical cruciform of the new.

    Where the four right angles of the older building frame four views of a centralized atrium, the four obtuse angles of the new building open views onto four different exterior landscapes. The existing building is centripetal; the new, centrifugal.

    At the center of the interlocking ells, a double-height arrival space with informal gallery gives access to the auditorium, and a central stair leads to the library above. On the top floor, studio space is designed as a large, open loft in proximity to the library below and to the studios in the adjacent building.

    Lighting the School

    Holl projects such as the Helsinki Museum and the St. Ignatius chapel are known for their deliberate treatment of daylight. From the CALA building's walls of glazing and wide-open views, one might assume that daylight is treated more generically in this project. Not so.

    The library's wall of north light is soft and diffuse, "gently suggestive of the translucent atmosphere of a shoji-screened room," says Holl. A single square puncture at the top permits a beam of sunlight to mix its warmth with the wall's cool blue north light. "So the experience of the exterior of these sheared glass ends, with their scalelessness, is completed by a unique, intimate phenomenon of translucency on the interior."

    Similarly, in the east stairwell, a carefully controlled concrete detail at the rail top lends emphasis to the quality of light in that space. "I am excited by all types of light," says Holl, "for me, there is no 'generic light.'"

    Building for Instruction

    As a school of architecture, the building offers lessons not only in daylight, but in structure and infrastructure as well.

    Precast concrete planks visible over the main entry hall give clues to the building's structure. During construction, these planks were suspended on scaffolding while concrete floors and columns were poured around them.

    With a thin finish pour on top, the 13-inch (33-centimeter) integral concrete floor eliminates the need for structural shear walls. A 15-ton (13,600-kilogram) truss helps take the load of the library above.

    The concrete planks are oriented parallel to the length, rather than the width, of the space, with columns and beams acting as a series of bents connecting the plank spans. This orientation allows the mechanical systems to rise up the outside walls.

    The exterior walls are three feet (91 centimeters) thick, allowing them to house heating pipes and HVAC ducts, as well as structure and insulation. Because the building's four arms are relatively narrow in plan, ductwork can feed the entire building from the sides, eliminating the need for a hung ceiling, and permitting maximum flexibility in the configuration of floor space.   >>>



    ArchWeek Image

    The new College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (CALA) at the University of Minnesota by Steven Holl Architects.
    Photo: Warren Bruland

    ArchWeek Image

    A glass "tower" marks the building's main entrance.
    Photo: Warren Bruland

    ArchWeek Image

    The glazed faces of the building terminate campus circulation routes. In winter, seams in the copper sheathing will enliven the facade with stripes of snow.
    Photo: Warren Bruland

    ArchWeek Image

    The new building acts as a counterpoint to an existing facility, designed in the late 1950s by Thorshov and Cerny.
    Photo: Warren Bruland

    ArchWeek Image

    Scale model illustrates the building's two interlocking L-shaped masses.
    Photo: Steven Holl Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Ground floor plan.
    Image: Steven Holl Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Top: section through northwest wing and auditorium, looking southeast. Bottom: section through northwest wing and entry stairs. (Scale in feet)
    Image: Steven Holl Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Top: section through southeast wing and stairs, looking northwest. Bottom: section through northeast wing, looking southwest. (Scale in feet)
    Image: Steven Holl Architects


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