Course Syllabus


Tenured Prof. Steven Holl 

Adj. Ass. Prof. Dimitra Tsachrelia

The late Arthur Danto’s book What Art Is summarizes a lifetime of this great philosopher’s reflections on visual art.  He wrote “Ontology is the study of what it means to be something. But knowing whether something is art belongs to epistemology — the theory of knowledge.”

 ‘The End of Painting’ predicted by many at the center of the movement of conceptual art in the 1960’s and 1970’s was perhaps the last gasp of a ‘grand narrative’ for art of our time. The development of painting continues today in strong works by Brice Marden, Gary Stephan, and Susan Francon, to name a few. Likewise, sculpture has developed new territory in the works of Anish Kapoor, Olafur Eliasson, and Oscar Tauzon; while video art and performance art grow from their own dimensions.  In terms of growth, the blurry territory between art and architecture is particularly exciting today.

At the seminar historic examples as well as recent built museums and art schools will be presented by Steven Holl in very deep detail.

Our cultural epoch has proven the art museum as a new center of metropolitan life. Museums have become social condensers as well as institutions of real educational force. Educational programs are central to our new extension of the Mumbai City Museum, situated in the center of the largest city in India. In a country where 300 million people live on less than one dollar per day, education is an urgent transforming force.

Today there are basically three types of new art museums. (1) Expressionistic, where the architecture overpowers the art, (2) White box, where the endless so-called neutral galleries draw the life out of the art  (such as the new MoMA), (3) A third type where there is spatial energy via the architecture which excites and draws one through gallery spaces of fine proportions and light foregrounding the art.

We have tried for particular and unique developments in this third type. First in the Kiasma Museum at the center of Helsinki (opened 1998) and the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City (opened 2001) and the Sifang museum in Nanjing (opened 2012). We look forward to realizations of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (opens 2019), the Mumbai City Museum and the museum complex in Qingdao, China.

Art Schools today are increasingly considering that the architecture of the school itself, its inspiring proportions and space, can be a catalyst for programs of educational excellence.  In our School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa (1999), and our second Iowa Visual Arts Building (2016) or the Glasgow School of Art (2009), the movement through spaces of interaction, the materials, light, and proportions of the architecture all have the capacity to contribute to the inspiration for the artworks created within their walls.

 It is with inspired dedication that we are fortunate to develop architecture from ideas as art. As Kant said “Partly because they at least strive for something, which lies beyond the bounds of experience…”


This Seminar is in two sections:

Part I Examines Architecture for Art schools and museums in detail.

Part II focuses on Art’s relation to Architecture in the works of Architects of the 21st century.

Each student is required to make an illustrated analytical presentation of a historical example of Art-Architecture to the entire class and invited critics.


Prof. Steven Holl will be in attendance the entire semester, instructing all classes.


Partial Reading list

(Main research of each student team is on the architect/work assigned)

1)         Danto C. Arthur. What Art Is. Yale University Press; 1 edition, 2014

2)         Lawrence Weschler , Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, Expanded Edition,

            Over Thirty Years of Conversations with Robert Irwin, Ahmanson-Murphy Fine Arts Book 2009

3)         Lucy R Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object

4)         Hal Foster. Design and Crime (and Other Diatribes)

5)         Kwinter, Sanford. Far from Equilibrium: Essays on Technology and Design Culture, Actar-D, 2007

5)         Philip, Jodidio. Architecture:Art, Munich Presel Verlag, 2005.

6)         Holl, Steven. Parallax, Princeton Architectural Press, 2000.

7)         Holl, Steven. Scale, Lars Miller, 2011.

8)         Safont‐tria, Jordi; Kwinter, Sanford; Holl, Steven. Steven Holl ‐ Color, Light, Time. Lars Miller, 2012.

Course Summary:

Date Details