Steven Holl’s Trajectory Towards Monolithic Architecture
The Tianjian Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museums both represent additive and subtractive form‐making in their purest monolithic form. While the two museums come from their own respective lineages, their formal similarities produce tensions that a monolithic building normally wouldn’t have. To revisit Holl’s Hangzhou Normal University as a foil to the Tianjian museums, the performing arts center and the art museum had no formal or material similarity. As two separate monoliths, they stand apart from not only the rest of the campus’ fabric, but from each other. If there is any relationship between the two, it is that the subtractive monolith acts more like a fabric building because it expresses a box primitive as its form and therefore is more introverted than the additive monolith.
However, when looking at the Ecology and Planning Museums for Tianjian, their formal similarities to one another change the reading of both buildings. If the two buildings weren’t across from one another, either building could be read as just a clear evolution towards monolithic form for Holl. However, in the context of one another the question of what came first, the chicken or the egg, rises. One building doesn’t stand out more than the other; instead they now operate as an inseparable pair. As a pair they can ignore the rest of the surrounding fabric as most monoliths do