Steven Holl's Kiasma Kiasma, The Essay

Length: 8 pages Sources: 8 Subject: Architecture Type: Essay Paper: #43025398 Related Topics: Architecture, Sensory Perception, Personal Reflection, Interior Design
Excerpt from Essay :

Rather than rejecting the natural variability experience everywhere but in most man-made structures, Kiasma embraces this variability.

Returning to the name Kiasma further demonstrates the design's emphasis on the human experience of perception, and the meaning imbued through this synthesis of sensory information and personal experience, because the architectural details of the building are structured in such a way as to provide the ideal space for the meeting of perception and conception, a meeting that arguably transforms visual stimuli into art. In particular, "the scaling in Kiasma is based on the dimensions of the human body," with special attention to a limit of "165 centimeters, the viewing height" (Kiasma Info: Architecture 2011). While the average visitor would likely not notice this feature, it serves to make the building the ideal space for reflection, because precisely by not noticing such elements as the height of certain artworks, the visitor is able to engage more directly with those works.

This reliance on the human body as the basis from which the design flows extends to every detail of the building, because "the height and width of the doors, the square pattern on the sliding doors and the scaling of spaces are based on the golden section," the linear representation of the ratio found throughout nature (Kiasma Info: Architecture 2011). While the simplicity of phenomenology has sometimes been taken as a rejection of the "organic," in reality one may consider it as an interpretation of the simplicity found in nature, because it simply chooses to focus on the common underlying structures by which organic life is organized, rather than the myriad combinations of those constituent parts which produce the variety of flourish seen in nature. The idea is not to imitate, and thus diminish nature, but rather to engage in the same structural standards by which natural beauty is formed and subsequently experienced by human beings.

Thus, the simple shapes of Kiasma do not reject the biological in the same cold, sterile way as the International style, but rather embrace an ostensibly simple geometry as a means of celebrating the fractal simplicity found in the world as a result of human biology and thought. "Every touching experience of architecture is multi-sensory," because "qualities of space measured equally by the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, and muscles," even though the centrality of vision leads one to assume that sight alone is the measure of experience, and Kiasma is designed to specifically engage most of these senses while allowing visitors to nonetheless focus almost exclusively on the sight of the structure and the art contained within (Pallasmaa 1994). The building accomplishes this by maintaining clean, smooth lines of plaster and concrete due to the fact that "all services, from security and ventilation to exhibition technology, are concealed within the wall structures," allowing the building to appear as a single, unififed structure without the jarring functional features which would otherwise be visible out of neccesity (Kiasma Info: Architecture 2011).

Thus, the design once again takes its cue from the human body by hiding the functional processes away in arteries...


In this way, Kiasma manages not only to embody phenomenology, but also serves a kind of rebuttal to simplistic interpretations of the theory which equate the simple appearance of a design with a perceived simplicity in the critical (in the sense of argumentative) work present in the design itself. The building is undeniably biological, not in the sense of the terrifying arabesque seen in the work of artists like H.R. Giger, but rather because the building uses the outward simplicity of the human body coupled with its inward complexity as a guidepost for a way to successfully bridge the gap between the personal experience of art and the public space of the museum.

The details of Holl's design function to structure the space of the museum in such a way as to encourage personal reflection and receptivity. Because "the design is based on ideas about the golden section, Zen-like peace, a human scale," the building recedes from the foreground of the visitor's perception even while structuring that perception (Kiasma Info: Architecture 2011). Even the fact that "the walls of some galleries are curved or positioned obliquely" serves to diminish the centrality of the building itself in favor of the space contained within, because while non-perpendicular walls might stand out in an otherwise rectangular building, their presence in Kiasma represents a natural outgrowth of the overall aesthetic. The interior of the museum is thus like an idealized interior of the mind, free-flowing and unfettered by ideological structure and completely receptive to the personal experience of the individual visitor. In this way, Kiasma embodies the personal ideal of phenomenology by marking itself as a space of reflection and conception, which helps to explain why the design and even the name were deemed so perfect for a contemporary art museum.

Steven Holl's Kiasma is a testament to the applicability and adaptability of phenomenological architecture, because it manages to integrate itself into the city of Helsinki and its rich architectural history while nevertheless bringing something new to its context. Kiasma embraces the phenomenological ideals of simplicity and the personal experience of time and space by presenting an ostensibly simple combination of two shapes whose complexity increases the closer one investigates. Every detail of the building serves to centralize the human body and humanity's experience of reality, and the name itself highlights the design's goal of acting as the ideal location for the creation of meaning out of the convergence of sensory information.


Asso, Nazlie Michel. 2009. Significations et perceptions en architecture dans l'oeuvre de christian norberg-schulz. Ph.D. diss., Universite de Montreal (Canada),

Finnish National Gallery, "Kiasma Info: Architecture." Last modified 2011. Accessed October

27, 2011.

Kiasma museum of contemporary art in helsinki. 1998. Building Design (00073423) (May 01):


Landforms. 2000. Architect 89, (11): 93-93,

Lord, Roberta.…

Sources Used in Documents:


Asso, Nazlie Michel. 2009. Significations et perceptions en architecture dans l'oeuvre de christian norberg-schulz. Ph.D. diss., Universite de Montreal (Canada),

Finnish National Gallery, "Kiasma Info: Architecture." Last modified 2011. Accessed October

27, 2011.

Kiasma museum of contemporary art in helsinki. 1998. Building Design (00073423) (May 01):

Cite this Document:

"Steven Holl's Kiasma Kiasma The" (2011, October 27) Retrieved July 28, 2021, from

"Steven Holl's Kiasma Kiasma The" 27 October 2011. Web.28 July. 2021. <>

"Steven Holl's Kiasma Kiasma The", 27 October 2011, Accessed.28 July. 2021,

Related Documents
Emmanuel Levinas Phenomenology Ethical Constructivism
Words: 5109 Length: 15 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 30187929

The metaphysical constructivists who are successful hardly take the truth of a substantive normative claim for granted. Transcendence In his phenomenological descriptions, Levinas used various accounts of transcendence to refer to the tradition and divergence of phenomenology in relation to Heidegger. His transcendences enacted the irreducible urge by oneself to get past the limitations of their social and physical states or conditions. Transcendence of the Other as described by Levinas is

Ethnography, Case Study, Narrative, Phenomenology, Grounded Theory...
Words: 1511 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Health - Nursing Paper #: 46231029

Ethnography, case study, narrative, phenomenology, grounded theory Ethnography The qualitative research format of the ethnography began in the discipline of anthropology. Ethnography "is a long-term investigation of a group (often a culture) that is based on immersion and, optimally, participation in that group" (Ethnography, 2013, Colorado State University Writing Guides.). The researcher embraces his or her outsider perspective and contrasts his or her own responses to participating in group rituals and

Moral Phenomenology Sensibility Theory Enables
Words: 1431 Length: 4 Pages Topic: Business - Ethics Paper #: 10028637

Intellectually my mind was saying: how could this happen in an open and public place with dozens of people walking in the area? There was also a sense of moral anger at the way that social rules and norms were being so openly being flouted. This feeling was strong and related to the physical sense of disgust and distress that I felt at the situation. Reciprocity The above aspects, the physical,

Meaning of Social Theory in the View of Phenomenology
Words: 8692 Length: 32 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 79164540

Social Theory in the View of Phenomenology: Alfred Schutz Who was Alfred Schutz, and why was his work on social theory and phenomenology so important? This is an important question that must be answered here, and will be answered, but there are other issues that must be examined as well. It is important to have an understanding of social theory and an understanding of phenomenology before Schutz is discussed too

Psychology Phenomenology Descriptive Qualitative Methods
Words: 746 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Psychology Paper #: 33441726

Assignment 1 Phenomenological psychology focuses on the subjective experiences of individuals. The “founder” of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl presented a cohesive methodology and philosophical framework that laid the foundation for phenomenological psychology. One of the greatest challenges of phenomenological psychology is differentiating between the unique subjective experiences and perceptions of individuals and the need to discern an objective, shared reality. Phenomenological psychology is almost easier to define by what it is not:

Grounded Theory and Phenomenology Phenomenology and Grounded
Words: 749 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 14344807

Grounded theory and phenomenology Phenomenology and Grounded theory are the most widely recognized methodologies to qualitative research utilized by medical practitioners. Despite the fact that there are distinctions between the two, they have share much in common. Both assume an interpretivist strategy in which the researcher tries to investigate genuine scenarios, and require a high level of face-to-face interaction between the researcher and the group or individual being analyzed. This is