Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl Architects (SHA) is an international, award-winning architecture and urban design conpany working as one office from two locations; New York City and Beijing. SHA has designed museums, galleries and exhibitions, universities and educational facilities, and residences. They have also designed commercial space for retail, offices and public utilities.


  • Internationally acclaimed architects working as one global office
  • Locations: New York, USA and Beijing, China


  • Architecture/Real Estate


  • One database tracks all project information, holds archives and contact information


  • Information is stored cohesively and is findable
  • Information is retrieved more swiftly
  • Documents and pdfs are generated from the database for clients and colleagues

For SHA the benefits of using FileMaker Pro are several-fold — the highest ranked being the ability to retrieve vital data in a fraction of the time it used to take, and knowing where it all is

— David van der Leer, Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl Architects creates and designs innovative, unusual and award winning buildings. From residences in Paradise Valley, Arizona, to Long Island, New York, museum complexes world wide, a marina in Beirut, Lebanon, and university buildings from Prague, Czech Republic to Princeton, New Jersey — if you see an unusual angular structure, a beautiful building with attitude — chances are high that it's an SHA design.

With extensive experience in the arts, SHA's work was recognized by Time Magazine in December 2007 in the 10 best Architectural Marvels.

The Nelson–Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, Missouri) was awarded first place, and the Linked Hybrid (Beijing, China) was voted as the third most promising project internationally for 2008.

Data storage is not easy when it comes to architecture. Not only are there drawings, images, pictures, plans but then there are contacts, articles, publications, invoices and more to neatly collect, store and make findable in an organized yet intuitive way. Moreover, SHA had one overriding concern. The firm wanted its database to look and feel like the work they do — it had to be aesthetically austere and functional, while being elegant and simple all at the same time.

Business Challenge

The challenge for David Van der Leer, the publications and exhibitions manager at SHA, and Julio Plasencia, the database designer at The Support Group, was several-fold. It meant starting from scratch as SHA's previous storage method was unstructured and not digital, and it meant learning how architects and designers work, so as to make accessing the stored data as simple and natural as possible. It also meant dealing with files that are unusually large — as plans and construction documents tend to be. And yet all the facets of the highly complex jobs that SHA undertakes had to be as retrievable as a rolled up drawing from a collection of tubes in the corner of an office.

Successful Solution

The completed database is one–stop shopping for the entire firm, says David, tracking all project information from credits to location, containing the archive, which includes everything from architectural models, watercolors, drawings and photos, magazine and books, and the vital contact information. It's also the backbone of the company's website, which has the same simple, elegant interface.

The database is used to track all of our project information (from credits to location), our archive (ranging from architectural models, watercolors, drawings, and photos to magazines and books) and our contact system. The database is the backbone of our new website.

— David van der Leer, Steven Holl Architects

Many of the features of FileMaker Pro have been adopted by SHA, especially the ability to print to PDF for clients and the media, and the use of ODBC to connect to the website. While only 10 people are using the database at the moment, and all of them are in New York, there is the expectation that in that not too distant future the offices in Beijing will come online too, when greater bandwidth there becomes available.

Customer Benefits

For SHA the benefits of using FileMaker Pro are several–fold — the highest ranked being the ability to retrieve vital data in a fraction of the time it used to take, and knowing where it all is. The meticulous attention to the details of the database interface, and its replication of the website, makes for easy and familiar navigation. For sheer simplicity and precision, the database conceived and implemented by SHA and Julio Plasencia is as elegant as the buildings and complexes that SHA designs and in which they take such pride.

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker, Inc.

For Steven Holl Architects:

Steven Holl Architects
New York, NY

For The Support Group, Inc.:

Julio Plasencia
New York, NY

FileMaker Community

Join for free

FileMaker Customer Stories

Explore real-life uses