October 24, 2012
by Matt Shoor AIA LEED AP
Matt Shoor
Tobias Holler, AIA, LEED AP, presents at Axor NYCMatt Shoor

Although separated by more than a century, the credos of Tobias Holler, AIA, LEED AP, and those of the celebrated architect Daniel Burnham seem to coincide. For Holler has seen fit to pursue work that questions accepted paradigms and upends traditional norms. He makes grand plans, and seeks to apply those plans across a variety of scales. Whether in the public sphere, a private residence, or the classroom, Holler demands that one dream big.

Event: Presentation by HOLLER architecture
Location: Axor NYC, 10.16.12
Speakers: Tobias Holler, AIA, LEED AP, HOLLER architecture
Organizers: AIANY New Practices Committee
Underwriters: Axor Hansgrohe; NRI
Patrons: Sure Iron Works; Thornton Tomasetti
Supporter: Samson Rope
Media Sponsor: The Architect’s Newspaper

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.”

Credited to Daniel Burnham (1846-1912)

Although separated by more than a century, the credos of Tobias Holler, AIA, LEED AP, and those of the celebrated architect Daniel Burnham seem to coincide. For Holler has seen fit to pursue work that questions accepted paradigms and upends traditional norms. He makes grand plans, and seeks to apply those plans across a variety of scales. Whether in the public sphere, a private residence, or the classroom, Holler demands that one dream big.

Perhaps inspired by his work on COOKFOX’s Bank of America Tower, the first LEED Platinum office tower in the United States, Holler’s first projects as the proprietor of HOLLER architecture sought to rethink an issue as massive and omnipresent as suburban Long Island. In his Long Island Radically Rezoned competition project (also known as L.I.R.R., in a cheeky nod to the familiar commuter railroad), he and his co-designers proposed displacing approximately 50% of the Island’s population in order to cluster density around mass-transit stops, thus preserving green space. Vestiges of suburban use would remain, however, and a small portion of remaining land would be devoted to high-density farming. As Holler curiously explained it, these modifications would result in an urban fabric with a profile much like that of contemporary Brooklyn.

After applying sustainable principles to the design of a major metropolitan area, Holler sought to scale down those concepts. The outcome was the “Attain This!” house, a prototype for a single family home on Long Island. Employing Passivhaus, net zero, and other green design strategies, the structure is designed to use 80% less energy than a similar residence. Equally important, Holler said that the construction cost is estimated to be less than $200,000.

Planning big also entails shaping subsequent generations’ critical thinking and analysis skills. In his capacity as an assistant professor at New York Institute of Technology, Holler prepares his students to embrace the challenges of a new age. One such issue is the burgeoning awareness of environmental issues in developing economies. Through his relationship with the community of Nosara, Costa Rica, Holler has implemented a curricular program to design and build a recycling center. As a result, NYIT students have had the opportunity to get hands-on experience drafting and constructing a project for an entirely different culture.

As demonstrated by projects such as Nosara, Attain This!, and L.I.R.R., it is clear that Tobias Holler and HOLLER architecture are pushing the boundaries of a conventional design practice. Indeed, his work contains some of Burnham’s old blood-stirring magic; its scope encourages an imaginative questioning of our reality.

Matt Shoor, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, is an architect, writer, and educator currently employed by Macrae-Gibson Architects. He is a frequent contributor to e-Oculus, and recently received his architectural license. Matt can be reached at mshoor@gmail.com.

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