Higgins Hall, at School of Architecture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The original building was built in 1868 for the Adelphi Academy (now Adelphi University), and was incorporated into Pratt’s campus in 1970. The building is actually three interconnected buildings: the North, built first by Mundell and Teckritz; the South, built in 1887 by Charles Haight; and the Center, which was recently completed in 2005 by Steven Holl Architects in association with Rogers Marvel Architects. Following 1996’s devastating fire, rumored to have been caused by a smoking student, the original center span of the building was destroyed, left divided in two. The floor levels in each of these wings never aligned and it was thought that the new connection could be a series of stairs and ramps to interconnect the halves.

Offsetting the red brick of the historic wings, Holl’s center section is made almost entirely of channel glass containing an insulated interlayer, which makes the glass appear frosted. The transparent center windows are framed in burnt red painted steel and tessellate in a balanced but asymmetrical pattern that offer glimpses of the studio spaces within. At night, the contrast between the glowing yellow façade and the clear windows creates a beacon in the neighborhood and reminds the students of the intensity of the evening hours spent in the studio.

During the day, the skylights allow for both direct southern and diffuse northern light to cascade into the interior, also creating an intense daytime environment. These constructions, as well as the series of ramps within, create a visual metaphor for the school as a center for mixing ideas and fostering innovative solutions.