Architect Steven Holl brings visual continuity to an arts complex in Princeton, New Jersey, using Pimar limestone to create a luminous effect on three interconnected volumes.
A large reflective pool is at the centre of the three-volume campus building. Photo: Paul Warchol
The Lewis Arts Complex, designed by Steven Holl Architects in partnership with BNIM, is a welcome addition to Princeton University’s famed New Jersey campus. Born from the need to create a space dedicated to the performing and creative arts, the complex comprises three buildings organized around a public courtyard and reflecting pool. Together, the buildings extend over 13,000 square metres. Each one takes on a distinct geometry with the Wallace Dance Building and Theatre in the round building, literature and the visual arts housed in the central tower, and a square-shaped structure reserved for music.
The Lewis Arts Complex is dedicated to the performance and creative arts. Photos: Paul Warchol
Besides experimenting with diversified building forms, Holl juxtaposed different materials and lighting effects to give each volume its distinctive qualities. The unifying feature is the Lecce limestone cladding by Pimar. Lecce, named after the southern Italian region from where the stone is quarried, has an understated sandy hue that harmonizes elegantly with the buildings’ other material finishes of glass, concrete and wood. Each natural slab, whether flat or curved, measures 90 x 150 x 7.5 centimetres. In total, the stone covers over 4,000 square metres of façade, with customized pieces made for the corners and cavities for seating.
One of the poetic details is a row outdoor seating built right into the façade.
In 2017, the Lewis Arts Complex was named Building of the Year by the New York-based Architect’s Newspaper, "recognized for its “masterful, layered ensemble that balances abstraction with a strong sense of place across many scales.”
Light effects accentuate the warmth of the glass and stone and offer an inviting presence.