Architect Steven Holl and renowned Milanese gallerist Antonia Jannone first met in the late seventies. At the time Jannone was building her reputation for showing drawings, projects, models and prints by well-known Italian and international architects, the young architect meanwhile, was visiting the city and wanted to show Jannone his drawings.
‘At the time I was not so interested,’ recalls Jannone matter-of-factly remembering their first meeting, ‘I was working with architects like Aldo Rossi and Ettore Sottsass and was busy with them.’
It wasn’t until almost 40 years later, when editor and curator Marco Sammicheli reintroduced the idea of a Holl exhibit, that Jannone rediscovered his work and fell in love with the depth of his watercolours.
The Rose that Grows In Paradise Is Blue, by Steven Holl, 2017
Sammicheli, who had followed the work of Holl since studying for his Phd, met the architect himself in 2015 when Holl was in town to receive an honorary degree from the Politecnico di Milano.
‘He told me the story about Antonia,’ explains Sammicheli, ‘and so I got in touch with her and asked her to meet us. Steven was very happy but very shy at first – it was beautiful to see how they were interacting with each other after so many years. Antonia remembered perfectly their first meeting, and so I said: “I think after so many years it’s time to do a show together”.’
The collection of watercolours on show are all original and most have never exhibited before. Works include both recent and historical projects, from Porta Vittoria Park and Botanical Gardens – a competition from 1986, to sketches of Holl’s Maggie’s Centre in London, which opened last year. Small details on Holl’s canvases such as clip marks where Holl pulled the paper taught, scribbled notes and even taped humorous newspaper cuttings offer an insight into his working process.
Institute for Contemporary Art, by Steven Holl, 2016
In addition to a set of A chairs designed in 1980 designed for the exhibition of the Pamphlet Architecture Reading Room in New York, Sammicheli has included two specially commissioned sculptures. Made from stone, the sculptures sit both inside and outside of the gallery and are called ‘one two five’ after the Golden mean used by artists such as Michaelangelo and Picasso.
‘No other place is better than this for the show,’ says Sammicheli looking around the space, ‘it’s in the history of Milan – it’s a shrine and well known architects make pilgrimages here.’