The Stretto House by Steven Holl


This completed residence built from 1989-1991 is located in Dallas, Texas and was designed by AIA Gold Medal winner Steven Holl. This is the Stretto House.  The name ‘stretto’ reveals that this piece of architecture has musical qualities. The house is based off of the stretto form in music where one musical phrase overlaps another and draws the listener in tune. This idea was created after Holl had visited the site and heard the constant murmur of water from the concrete dams in the nearby stream illuminating a consistent tempo in the sound of nature. Visually these dams resembled an overlapping stretto in a piece of music. Holl’s concept of the Stretto House was built off of existing site conditions and from previous knowledge in the music discipline.

The Stretto House was designed for an art collector who trusted anything Holl desired to propose. With these circumstances Steven created a house designed entirely off of a piece of music written by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók in 1936.

There are four divisions of space within the construction of this residence (two of which are seen here in the picture above-the walls on the left and right). These four main sections represent the overlapping percussions (heavy) which consist of heavy orthogonal masonry and the roof represents the string instruments (light) which is consisted of light curvilinear metal.

Together the residence becomes complete where the design pulls one through the independent spaces (indoor and outdoor) like the overlapping stretto in a song-pulling the listener onward to the next musical phrase with delicate consistency. It is the joy of experiencing architecture with spatial and light sequences, textures, smells, and sounds.

In reflection, this residence reveals much more than a resemblance of a musical form. The artistic concept also reveals a convergence of landscape and architecture where nature and infrastructure are fused. When one sits by the ponds in the outdoor space they are relaxed by the constant buzz of running water or one is affected by the natural elements of the surrounding environment. Combining of these properties attempts to inform the occupier of the intended function of each spatial sequence. The Stretto House is a blended grouping of nature, infrastructure, and art all fixed together to serve the specific function of a home for an art collector.


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