Sail, by Holl

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

Lately I get the feeling that we are approaching the limits of the iconographical project. It becomes increasingly hard to find new iconographies, either because these projects are not so much out there in the media, or just because they do not exist.

With now 99 iconographic objects documented here at Eikongraphia one cannot deny iconography does exist. But I keep finding myself talking about projects of a couple years ago. The scary question: Has the iconographic project already passed us by?

Sailboat (Photographer: Parreira/Flickr)
Sailboat (Photographer: Parreira/Flickr)

One of the architects that keeps returning on this blog is the American architect Steven Holl. A big chunk of his current portfolio has an iconographic motivation, different results. The embassy that Holl designed in Washington for Switzerland is one of the most beautiful ones, with references to the mountains, and the national flag. The T-shaped residential towers in Denmark I find less convincing.

Critics keep saying Steven Holl is an avant-garde architect, but when discussing the iconographies he applies, one has to admit he is not innovative at all – which doesn’t say his designs are not really good. Take for instance the ‘sail’ that Holl is currently designing for the Belgium city Knokke-Heist. In the Eikongraphia Top 10 chart of iconographies three buildings with the same iconography appear; the Sydney Opera House (Jorn Utzon), the Burj Al Arab (W.S. Atkins), and the Antwerp Law Courts (Richard Rogers).

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

But when looking at the collages and renderings of the design it is clear that it is not the iconography that is innovative, but the way it is developed. The end result is a stunning and beautiful building with its fragmented form and light surfaces.

Rene Magritte room in Casino Knokke (Photograph: Casino Knokke) Rene Magritte - Ship and Sirens (Image: Art Maniac)
Rene Magritte room in Casino Knokke (Photograph: Casino Knokke) |
Rene Magritte - Sailboat and Sirens (Image: Art Maniac)

The motivation for the sail-iconography comes indirectly from the location of the site at the shore of the North Sea. Holl takes a detour via a painting inside of the building he designs the extension for:

“The Sail Hybrid design was inspired by the René Magritte mural, The Ship Which Tells the Story to the Mermaid, commissioned for the casino in 1953.The mural inspired a hybrid transformation of the casino into three architectures: an early-modern restored volumetric architecture (white restored, reprogrammed casino), a porous-bridge Hybrid Architecture (perforated congress hall), and a sail-like Planar Architecture (glass planes – hotel and apartment tower) to create a synergy of new functions.”

The ‘sail’ is part of a larger collage of elements, in which the 1930 early Modernist casino designed by Leon Stynen is being overbuilt by this new extension. In the competition-entry of Neutelings Riedijk this old building was destroyed.

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)
Steven Holl - Casino Knokke, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (Copyright Steven Holl)

Huge versions of the images shows here can be found at this website.

The project is added to the Top 10, Architects and Representation pages.


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