Projects   Project Portfolio – October 2005
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Connecticut Water Purification Facility and Public Park

Hamden, Conn.
Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl creates a prototype with Connecticut Water Purification Facility and Park that reestablishes public works as works of art

By Sara Hart

  Click images to enlarge Photo © Paul Warchol

Passing motorists and unaware locals often assume that this elegant structure pressed into a gently sloping site is some sort of cultural institution. It could be. Set back from a busy road, it reads as a long, silver ingot, stretching 360 feet into infinity. The fact that no sign identifies the building makes it all the more conspicuous, presumably not what the client intended.

The reality is more down-to-earth. The building actually houses a hard-working water-treatment plant, which produces 15 million gallons of clean water every day for south-central Connecticut. Then why does an industrial container for heavy machinery require the design talents of the renowned architect Steven Holl? The answer, in this case, is location. The neglected site had been occupied by the ruins of an abandoned, century-old water-treatment plant. Its upper-middle-class neighbors, already displeased with the existing eyesore, were not going to welcome a concrete bunker as the replacement centerpiece for their idyllic environs. The client, the Regional Water Authority, anticipated opposition and enlisted the community to advise it in the selection of an architect. After interviewing several firms, the authority and the committee agreed to award the commission to Holl’s New York–based firm.

The challenge of developing an architectural vocabulary to give form to a highly specialized program inspired Holl and his team, led by partner Chris McVoy, to immerse themselves in the complex science of water purification—a series of stages that begins at the molecular level. Their investigation led to the creation of a two-story, shimmering sliver, which houses the public and operational programs, while the water-treatment facilities are dispersed on several levels below grade. Whereas the sliver resembles an inverted drop of water, Holl avoided creating what he calls “an expressionistic artifice” by allowing certain functions to interrupt the form. Gentle bulges appear along the sliver. These are not imperfections, but rather opportunities to insert openings or exterior stairs obliquely against the form.

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the People

Regional Water Authority

Steven Holl Architects
450 W. 31 Street
New York, NY 10001

Design architects:
Steven Holl, Chris McVoy

Design architects:
Anderson Lee, Arnault Biou, Annette Goderbauer, Urs Vogt

Project team:
Justin Korhammer, Linda Lee, Rong-hui Lin, Susi Sanchez

- Tighe & Bond Consulting Engineers
- The Bioengineering Group

Landscape architect:
Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates

Paul Warchol
Paul Warchol Photography Inc.
224 Centre Street Fifth Floor
New York, NY 10013
212- 274-1953

the Products

Exterior Cladding
Metal/glass curtain wall:
A. Zahner

Stainless-steel cladding:
A. Zahner

Green roof:

Interior Fisnishes
Precast concrete:

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