In a related article, we featured Steven Holl's T-Husene Development project being currently built in Ørestaad, Denmark.
We are complementing that article with an interview with the Architect about his ideas on the project.
Q. How did you come up with the idea behind the Dancing T’s?
S.H. The process started with a period of several weeks in which I carefully studied the program, urban constraints, landscape, sunset, precious Scandinavian sky which was followed by a period of reflection. Then one morning I intuitively started to make sketches that were inspired by these studies and reflections.
Q. What is the idea behind the Dancing T’s?
S.H. First of all, the concept for the dancing T’s came from the idea of making exciting apartments by maximizing the use of the view to the horizon, twilight and Scandinavian sky. Secondly, the idea was to create an inspirational ground floor condition that would differentiate itself from standard perimeter blocks. The introduction of the idea of “urban porosity” allowed us to have the green scapes east and west of our sites to penetrate our site, creating a continuous flow of green through our site. Dancing T’s with colored and reflective undersides become sculptures within that green scape and create an exciting ground floor experience. In conclusion, you can say that the dancing T’s come from a pragmatism combined with a spatial energy.
Q. Can you explain the dancing T’s in the concepts of “idea and phenomena?”
S.H. The phenomenon of the place created by the space, light, reflections, and materials is the real measurement of the project. The way the T’s for example carve the sky and create the space between the T’s is a unique phenomenon that could not have been created for example by just one T.
Q. What are your criteria of success for a project in general? – and specifically for the dancing T’s?
S.H. My professor always said that a building should look good from the outside, but should even be greater from the inside. In our project we have a beautiful urban interior with a folding landscape, dancing towers that slice the sky and have reflective undersides. The first time I experienced and studied the carved sky was when I was in Rome as a 20 year old student. The beautiful sky was carved by the irregular shapes of the street patterns, creating a fantastic spatial energy. In the apartments the detailing and materials are of great importance to create an inspiring and unique place; a place to live in and come back to again and again.
Q. What can future residents of the Dancing T’s look forward to when living in the houses?
S.H. All the apartments have at least two exposures or a south facing façade. Further, it is very important to me to create individuality for each apartment. Unlike the perimeter block I want to create a sense of autonomy, individuation, and particularity for each apartment and tower. On of the failures of modern housing comes from the lack of individuation. Concepts should not be based on the mass but on individuals since there are no two people that are the same. I aim for an architecture that is in connection to each human being. Therefore new typologies need to be created of which the dancing T’s are one example.
Q. What defines a good place to live according to your point of view?
S.H. Our projects focus on or give particular attention to the various forms of light like natural, artificial, direct, indirect, diffused and reflected light. Further we also care a lot about the “haptic realm”; the nature of materials. Related to this is the Japanese notion of Wabi Sabi which is about the imperfection of natural materials and how they change over time. The way natural materials weather over time is an important reason why I use natural materials like wood or terrazzo in my buildings. If a synthetic material like fibreglass brakes, or is being scratched, it starts to look very bad. Imperfections with natural materials like wood or stone on the other hand give the material a unique character; that contributes to the individuality I spoke about earlier.
Q. What is your relationship to Scandinavia?
S.H. First of all, my grandfather was born in Tonsberg, Norway. Since Scandinavia is in my blood it gives me natural appreciation of nature, light and sky. Secondly, I am always honoured to build in Scandinavia since design is always so well appreciated and is so much part of the culture. It is not by accident that there are so many great architects from Scandinavia.
Q. Your buildings (different projects) look very different – how come?
S.H. Every situation and site is different which is something I already spoke about in my early manifesto in 1989; Anchoring. The unique connection makes me reinvent architecture for each specific site.
Q. What do you like about building in Ørestad?
S.H. What I like about Ørestad is the density and fast metro connection with the city of Copenhagen in contrast to the American urban sprawl characterised by high ways and endless seas of houses. The beauty of the Ørestad strategy is that it preserves, and is well connected to the old city of Copenhagen and the nature of the Amager Fælled.