Thursday, October 19, 2006

Steven Holl Responds - Denver Justice Center

In my last in a series of posts on the Denver Justice Center (this link also may be of interest) and architect Steven Holl's decision to leave the project, I noted that I had emailed Steven Holl: "Well, anyway... I've emailed Steven Holl to see if I can get his side of the story. Don't expect an answer."

Well, I did get an answer and here it is:
Thank you for your email regarding the Denver Justice Center. I am encouraged that you are skeptical of what some of the Denver newspapers have written about the issue. I assure you that I had invested all that was in me as an architect to try to make this important public building a reality. The director of the project under the Mayor effectively rejected our design. In fact, he says that in a sentence in one of the recent newspaper articles. Here is the problem focused. How can a city which invested so much effort in selecting an architect put the decision for the architectural design in the hands of those who were not partial to the ideas of the selection committee and not sympathetic to an intense work of public architecture?

For all the bad press concerning budget, I assure you we could have built our design on budget. Having just completed two public works on budget in September, the School of Art & Art History at the University of Iowa and the Swiss Ambassador’s Residence in Washington, D.C., the first (School of Art and Art History building) was built for just over $200 per square foot. We were counting on making the Denver Courthouse for $300 per square foot; however, we needed to use our materials palette and not the materials listed by the Project Director. One material price will show you the great difference: the Project Director specified terrazzo floors and these would be $20 per square foot. At the University of Iowa we used a terrazzo grinder on concrete floors which had a limestone mix in the aggregate. These are beautiful floors and everyone in Iowa, including the President of the University, praised them, and they cost $4 per square foot. In this $16 per square foot difference you see how we could have made a budget work.

Architecture is a very fragile art; it is like a flame one holds up to a group. Project Directors sometimes try to blow or stamp it out, so you must have a sheltering hand to protect it through the delicate process of realization.


Steven Holl

Thank you, Mr. Holl.


Doogman said...

Wow. How eloquent.

<irony class='brutal'>
I can see why his design was rejected tho - no american flags, no 911 monument, no crosses.

Damn foreigner.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Quite an honor to get a personal response from a world-class architect. Do you suppose Meija is in over his head now that the project is at this stage? The City's spin was presumptively bullshit even before reading Holl's email. A fascinating read, though, is the NYTimes edition on the fifth anniversary. The long piece on development of ground zero has much on the battle of architects. Exactly as Holl's last paragraph so eloquently states. Elton and Marilyn and Princess Di. Architects live their lives like candles in the wind..... Now the City is going to get a real "Klipp joint" of a new justice center. Shouldn't attract much attention one way or the other. But a prediction: It WILL go over budget. Just wait and resurrect this stuff a couple years hence.

Marc said...

Thank you for sharing this. I commend Mr. Holl for standing up for his initial design, and his process.

After reading about Calatrava's exit from the DIA expansion project, I'm starting to see a common thread that puts the City of Denver in a not so flattering light.