Of Philosophy and Reading: The Book Lists of Steven Holl and Juhani Pallasmaa

By Steve Kroeter February 22, 2011

The architects Steven Holl and Juhani Pallasmaa have a history of connections. Holl (an American) and Pallasmaa (a Finn) have important ties to each other’s home country. One of Holl’s best-known buildings is in Helsinki (the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, for which Pallasmaa was the local architect). Pallasmaa, who has held visiting professorships at four American universities, is an honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

More striking, the two architects, who met in Finland in 1991, share an interest in philosophy, particularly in phenomenology—a concern with the relationship between sensory experience and physical surroundings—and its connection to architecture. They explore this in their writings: Pallasmaa’s book The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (1995) is considered a classic in the field and is on the reading lists of many architecture and design schools around the world. Holl wrote the preface to the second edition, issued in 2005. Holl and Pallasmaa (along with Alberto Pérez-Gómez) are the authors of Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture—originally published by A+U in 1994, and re-issued by William Stout Publishers—which investigates the role that human perception plays in architecture.

This exploration carries over into what these two architects read and have read: Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s major work on phenomenology The Visible and the Invisible, incomplete at the time of the author’s death and published posthumously in 1968, shows up on Steven Holl’s book list as well as on Juhani Pallasmaa’s book list. But also making an appearance are books of classic and modern poetry, fiction, and studies of film and music—all vehicles of perception of one kind or another.

comments powered by Disqus