Reconceiving Antiquity

H-COBB_HYPOSTYLE_JS001WEBSCI-Arc hosts the liveliest program of architectural installations in LA, and featured many of them in a book a couple of years back. The current offering is Hypostyle, a student-built creation by Henry Cobb, a modernist with deep roots in the past. Like Mies and Kahn, he sees parallels between classical order and the stripped-down aestheic of modernism. One doubts that architectural history plays a large role in the SCI-Arc curriculum, so it’s a salutory lesson for students that architecture amounts to more than 3D modeling and parametrics. In this installation, Cobb rethinks the hypostyle—a hall supported by ordered rows of vertical supports. The temples of Karnak in Egypt, the Great Mosque of Cordoba, and the Basilica Cistern in Instanbul exemplify the idea.

In an installation that Cobb calls “experimental and complex,” planar elements are substituted for columns, employing a human scale “H” of three hollow-core doors with a fourth that suggests a roof. These portals are rotated at a 90-degree angle to each other, overlaying a diagonal floor grid. From these simple, repetitive elements Cobb evokes a maze, a basilica, and a forest. One can imagine the elements being wheeled around to enclose or define a different set of spaces. At the center is a table-top model of a hypostyle comprising white Doric columns on square bases. Each is a replica of Adolph Loos’s unsuccessful entry in the 1922 Chicago Tribune competition: a deeply ironic vision from the architect who denounced ornament as crime. The miniature plays off the plywood planes in a dialogue of scales and materials. Nothing better demonstrates the elemental power of architecture and the need to experience it physically. —Michael Webb

 Hypostyle is on display through May 17th. Click here for more information.


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