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Steven Holl: Watercolors

January 26, 2015 /

At a time of rapidly changing technology in the service of architectural design, Steven Holl's watercolors is an important reminder of just how much you can do with the simplest of means. Holl's watercolors has become his signature, a truly unique style of visualization and one that continues to inspire reverance and awe. 

Steven Holl has always been drawing. For him, he says, it's a form of thought. He is known for his sculptural, almost Corbusian approach to architecture and natural light. And while watercolors may seem an obvious choice for visualizing these characteristic aspects of his work, it took a while for Holl to exchange the pencil with the brush - and surprisingly, when he did so, it was for purely practical reasons.

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

Digital tools are essential to the practice of twenty-first-century architecture, but Holl does worry that architects who don't draw enough are missing out on the vital connection between hand and mind. "We're losing the sense of craftsmanship for certain things. We're losing knowledge," he says.

This is just a small handful of the thousands of watercolors produced by the incredibly productive Holl over the course of his four-decade-long career.

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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./ Steven Holl

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Last updated: January 26, 2015

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