In no other language besides English does the word “light” have the following double meaning: light as it comes from the sun; and light - light as a feather. Steven Holl Architects is constantly in search of conjugations of these two qualities. More than mere qualities, they are principally what informs just about any move in this dance towards a project.
Here in the Franklin & Marshall College an hour west of Philadelphia in Amish country, where the motto of the college is Lux et Lex (light and law), the project as it has been realized is nothing if not overwhelming. In Holl’s work one sees a play of light caught in the geometry that accommodates the ancient trees as much as in the future generations of young aspiring artists and film makers.
Taking a clue from the notion of the laws of light, there is nothing in this building that does not follow and obey the laws of light propagation, reflections and sheer luminosity - not only the luminosity which awashes this building but the translucent quality of the spaces inside - studios (collective and individual), galleries and workshops. In addition to the windows and other openings, many translucent walls add to this perspicacity of the ambiance. Only the underground film lab and other photographic provisions are deprived of daylight luminosity.
This is an incomparable reading of the pavilion as a type. Incomparable, since the pavilion is as light as a butterfly (“papillion”), resting on minimal support. Here, the ground floor with its still structure and concrete walls provide the basis on which a wider second level is constructed with a steel cage that provides support for the smaller third level. Not unlike Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Earthship.
This architecture is encouraging this and future generations of young artists to experiment with their insights.
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