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Steven Holl blames 'corruption in power' for construction industry's failure to embrace renewable energy in hard-hitting interview

We need a new, brighter future where every energy source is renewable. We could have been there already if it wasn’t for corruption in power. We need articulate, intelligent leadership more than ever before
– Steven Holl

Architect Steven Holl has blamed “a crisis of ignorance in high places” for a lack of progress in adopting environmental building practices, reserving particular ire for US president Donald Trump, who he predicted will be impeached.

In a sweeping interview with CLADglobal, Holl argued that politicians through to developers, architects and contractors must do more to “get free from our dependence on non-renewable fuels” throughout the design and construction process.

“We need a new, brighter future where every energy source is renewable,” he said. “We could have been there already if it wasn’t for corruption in power. We need articulate, intelligent leadership more than ever before.”

Addressing Trump’s presidency so far, which has seen the US leader signal his intention to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement and propose cuts to research on renewable energy, Holl said: “He’s undoing every positive thing Obama ever did, and that’s really disgusting. Have we ever seen a president do that in history?”

“I think he’s going to be impeached, personally,” he added. “I don’t think America agrees with what he’s doing. The nature of democracy is being damaged and manipulated. It’s a very fragile thing.”

Despite his concerns, Holl said he retains the belief that “architecture changes the way we live, and your own work as an architect can help bring about positive change in the world.”

Holl has long been an advocate for sustainable design, and told CLADglobal that “much like with computers, green technology is advancing every six months.” His projects in the pipeline include a library in Malawi for the Miracle of Africa Foundation that will be entirely powered by solar energy captured by PV panels on its roof.

“I do manage to stay optimistic about the future, because the Earth is our planet and environmental issues affect us all,” he told CLADglobal. “There are a lot of intelligent people on the globe, so I’m sure we’ll get through this.”

’We need to put the art back into architecture’

In the interview, Holl also reflected on his architectural philosophy, his love of “designing with daylight” and his long friendship with the late Zaha Hadid.

He called on the next generation of architects to remember “the art of architecture” rather than simply working on “endless glass condominium towers” for “people who only care about making money”.

“There’s more to what we do than obediently following orders,” he said. “I’m not interested in real estate corp, I’m not a businessman and I’m not trying to build a big organisation, so I don’t have to be obedient. I do only what I think is right and I do only what I think is interesting.

“I get so excited when I remember that we are creating buildings for future generations. That’s what inspires me to work. Giorgio Grassi once wrote a book called Architettura: Lingua Morta – ‘architecture is a dead language.’ That’s completely the opposite of what I believe. I think it’s alive, and new inspiration can come from anything, literature, music, paintings, sculptures, film, you name it.”

He advised young architects “apply the same great intensity that we had in the work of Le Corbusier, Carlo Scarpa or Pierre Chareau,” stating that “we have to keep fighting in the spirit of all the great buildings we have made in the past and the great buildings we could still build in the future.”

Holl has worked in numerous countries across several typologies, often returning to cultural projects such as the Reid Building at the Glasgow School of Art, the curving Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki and the interconnected glowing volumes of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

His practice, Steven Holl Architects, are currently working on a 2 million sq ft (200,000sq m) mixed-use district on a former paratrooper airfield in Moscow; two new buildings for Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; and a museum and hotel in Angers inspired by the medieval Apocalypse Tapestry.

The full interview with Steven Holl can be read in the latest issue of CLADglobal’s quarterly title CLADmag, which is available online and on digital turning pages.

The magazine also features interviews with architects Alison Brooks and Odile Decq, landscape specialist Adriaan Geuze and designers Ed Ng and Alice Lund.

Steven Holl  sustainable design  Donald Trump  architecture  CLADglobal  CLADmag 
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FEATURE: Interview – Steven Holl

Architect Steven Holl has blamed “a crisis of ignorance in high places” for a lack of progress in adopting environmental building practices, reserving particular ire for US president Donald Trump, who he predicted will be impeached. In a sweeping interview with CLADglobal, Holl argued that politicians through to developers, architects and contractors must do more to “get free from our dependence on non-renewable fuels” throughout the design and construction process.
CLD,ARC,DES,DEV,PHR,ECO
Despite his concerns, Holl told said he retains the belief that 'architecture changes the way we live' / Steven Holl Architects
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