Steven Holl shapes Winter Visual Arts Building around 200-year-old trees

Emilee Geist

Gallery: These 7 friends built a house so they could grow old together (Lovemoney) Curving glass walls enclose the Winter Visual Arts Building, which Steven Holl Architects has completed in the arboretum of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. © Provided by Dezeen Winter Visual Arts Building by Steven […]

Gallery: These 7 friends built a house so they could grow old together (Lovemoney)

Curving glass walls enclose the Winter Visual Arts Building, which Steven Holl Architects has completed in the arboretum of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.



a group of people standing in front of a building: Winter Visual Arts Building by Steven Holl Architects in Lancaster, Pennsylvania


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Winter Visual Arts Building by Steven Holl Architects in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

The sculptural three-storey arts centre, first revealed by Steven Holl Architects in 2016, forms part of the US college’s new Arts Quad and contains studios, classrooms, and offices.



a person standing in front of a building: Winter Visual Arts Building is distinguished by its asymmetric facade


© Provided by Dezeen
Winter Visual Arts Building is distinguished by its asymmetric facade

Winter Visual Arts Building is distinguished by its translucent, undulating upper storeys, intended to resemble a lightweight pavilion nestled amongst the campus’ 200-year-old trees.

This distinctive geometry was developed by Steven Holl Architects in response to the roots and driplines of these trees, which are one of the oldest elements of the campus.



a tree in front of a building: It is shaped around existing trees on the site


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It is shaped around existing trees on the site

“Winter Visual Arts Building is the center of creative life on campus,” said the New York studio. “The universal language of art enabled by the building’s spaces brings together students from diverse cultures to collaborate on arts projects.”

“The large diameter trees, the oldest elements of the Franklin & Marshall’s 52-acre arboretum campus, were the conceptual generator of the building’s geometry,” it continued.

“As a lightweight building, its main floor is lifted into the trees on a porous ground level open to the campus.”



a tree in front of a building: A nearby pool is designed to reflect the building


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A nearby pool is designed to reflect the building

Winter Visual Arts Building’s form was achieved with a two-story ‘box-kite’ steel frame, which is elevated and cantilevered from its white-painted concrete base.

Now complete, it replaces the campus’ 1970s Herman Arts Center, which was designed by Maryland-based firm RCG.



a large room: Translucent glass provides optimal lighting in the studios


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Translucent glass provides optimal lighting in the studios

The facade’s translucent glazing was chosen by the studio to provide optimal lighting conditions for the studio spaces inside, and is combined with operable viewing windows and skylights to provide fresh air.

This glazing is also intended to contrast with the “heavy exemplary brick architecture” of the adjacent Old Main – an original 1850s campus building to which it is connected to via a ramp.



a room with a sink and a window: A mezzanine level overlooks the studios


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A mezzanine level overlooks the studios

Inside, the Winter Visual Arts Building has been designed with generous circulation spaces, with two entrances on different levels.

The ground floor contains studios for heavy sculpture work alongside a series of galleries that make the facility and student’s work accessible to the local community.



There is an auditorium on the first floor


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There is an auditorium on the first floor

Above, the first floor contains more private, double-height studios for drawing, design, printmaking, painting, woodworking and an auditorium for cinematography students, which are arranged around an informal presentation space.

A mezzanine-style second floor overlooks the teaching studios and hosts Art History seminar rooms, while a hidden basement level contains all of the digital labs and service areas that require minimal lighting.

The Winter Visual Arts Building is complete with a large reflecting pool outside, which has been placed to reflect the translucent glass facade at night.



a view of a large building: The building has generous circulation spaces


© Provided by Dezeen
The building has generous circulation spaces

Steven Holl Architects is the eponymous firm of American architect Steven Holl, founded in 1976. Today it has offices in New York and Beijing and is headed up by Holl with partners Chris McVoy, Roberto Bannura and Noah Yaffe.

The Winter Visual Arts Building is one of many education facilities by Steven Holl Architects, with others including the Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa and the Glassell School of Art in Houston, which has a sloped rooftop garden.

It also recently won a competition to revamp Ireland’s largest university with a proposal featuring buildings that evoke the Giant’s Causeway.

Photography is by Paul Warchol.

Project credits

Architect: Steven Holl Architects

Client: Franklin & Marshall College

Principal design architect: Steven Holl


Partner in charge: Chris McVoy 
Project architect and senior associate: Garrick Ambrose

Assistant project architect: Carolina Cohen Freue

Project team: Dominik Sigg, Marcus Carter, Elise Riley, Michael Haddy and Hannah LaSota

Project manager: Thomas Murray of Casali Group and Sheldon Wenger of Franklin and Marshall College

Structural engineers: Silman Associates

MEP engineers: ICOR Associates

Civil engineers: David Miller Associates

Climate engineer: Transsolar

Landscape architects: Hollander Design
Facade consultants: Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering

Lighting consultants: L’Observatoire International

Acoustical consultants: Harvey Marshall Berling Associates

Pool consultants: Aqua Design International

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