STEVEN HOLL: A TRANSLATION OF PHENOMENOLOGICAL PHILOSOPHY INTO
THE REALM OF ARCHITECTURE
Middle East Technical University
Regarding both the conceptualization and experience of architecture, phenomenology has always been a field of
interest for the architectural realm, which is evident in the examinations of the subject /object, space/time and human
body/space/place relationality. This paper examines Steven Holl’s approach to architecture as a particular example of
how phenomenology may provide the architect with opening up new horizons both in theory and praxis of architecture.
In this paper, it is aimed to develop a close reading of Steven Holl’s thinking on and making of architecture. Starting
from the recognition of an intellectual and phenomenal particularity in Holl’s architecture, this paper aims at elucidating
the philosophical depth in his approach.
As the main subject of research, the philosophical depth in Steven Holl’s architecture will be examined in relation
to its reference to a particular phenomenological position. This examination will be developed on the basis of two main
hypotheses. Firstly, it is claimed that the philosophical background of Holl’s architecture is mainly based on the
phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the French philosopher (1908-1961). Steven Holl brings forth a translation of
philosophical concepts that Merlau-Ponty stresses, into the realm of architecture. Secondly, Holl’s making of architecture
develops around the intellectual framework in which he connects phenomenology with architecture. The way he makes
architecture becomes a field of practice where phenomenal aspects are elaborated to achieve a design concept and then to
articulate forms. What is the fundamental challenge of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology for Steven Holl, as an architect?
How does his philosophical concern influence Holl’s understanding of architecture? In which way does phenomenology
contribute to his architectural practice? These are the essential questions that this paper addresses.
Holl’s architecture will be studied within two main frameworks that are his thinking on architecture and the way
he makes architecture. Staring from the intellectual framework in his architecture through which the design process
develops in relation to specific concepts, the architectural embodiment of this intellectual framework through details,
spaces and forms will be analyzed. This analysis aims at elucidating the phenomenological foundation of certain
architectural conceptions, which the architect dwells upon in architectural creation.
The inquiry of the phenomenological framework of Holl’s making of architecture will stress upon his re-
interpretation of the relations between building, site, and situation and between body, architectural space, time and
movement. Haptic sensibility in creating details, spaces and forms will constitute another aspect of the inquiry. Holl’s
search for meaning in architecture generated out of both the conceptual and experiential particularity of a situation will
also be inquired. Another important issue that will be addressed is the distinct philosophical position of Martin Heidegger
and its reflections on the work of Christian Norberg-Schulz. It is proposed that this remark will help to better understand
and locate Stveen Holl’s approach.
This study not only searches for achieving a deep understanding of the practice of an architect, but also puts
forward an inquiry of a possible interaction between architecture and phenomenology.
Derya Yorgancıoğlu, The Chamber of Architects of Turkey (TMMOB), Ankara, Ragıp Tüzün Caddesi, Demir Apt. No:420/4 06170 Yenimahalle-
Ankara, Work: MATPUM (METU Faculty of Architecture, Center for Research Design Planning and Implementation), Middle East Technical
University (METU), nönü Bulvarı, 06531 Ankara. Phone: +90 312 210 7250, Fax: +90 312 210 7265, Country: TURKEY, Phone number(s):+90
312 344 41 55, +90 0537 404 10 38, E-mail address: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
erya Yorgancıoğlu was born in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (T.R.N.C.) in 1979. She received her B.Arch in Architecture from Yıldız
Technical University, Istanbul, Turkey in 2000 (with the honor degree of first in the Department of Architecture), M.Arch in Architecture from the
Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey in 2004. Currently, she is a Ph.D. student and studying on her doctorate dissertation entitled as
“A Historical-Interpretive Research on the Intellectual Heritage of the Founding Years of the Faculty of Architecture of the METU.” .
Her research interests include phenomenology, architecture, and architectural education. Since 2005, she has been a member of The Chamber of
Architects of Turkey (TMMOB), Ankara. She is currently a research assistant in MATPUM-Architecture, Research, Design, Planning and
Implementation Center- Strategy Development and Knowledge Base in Education, Middle East Technical University Faculty of Architecture