The SCI-Arc Gallery is open daily, 10am-6pm.
Architect Henry Cobb and SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss discuss the installation
Since time immemorial, hypostyles have been constructed as halls wherein highly ordered arrays of vertical supports populate roofed spaces that are conceptually limitlessóbut to widely varying effect. In the Great Hall of the Temple of Ammon at Karnak (1408-c.1300 B.C.), massive columns take preemptive pride of place within a space that is consequently experienced as entirely residual. By contrast, in the Great Mosque at Cordova (786-c.1000 A.D.), tiered arches supported by relatively slender columns grant primacy to a lofty space ennobled by their intricately contrived celebratory presence. More ambiguously, in the Basilica Cistern at Istanbul (532 A.D.), space and structure achieve an uncanny balance that stirs both wonder and apprehension. And in the Grain Storage Warehouse at Altdorf (1912 A.D.), the flared heads of Robert Maillartís octagonal columns induce an altogether thrilling sense that the space has been created by compressing what had once been a solid block of concrete into a forest of slender vertical supports.
The hypostyle in this SCI-Arc Gallery installation is an experiment. Far from being intended to demonstrate or test a general theory, its purpose is simply to discover the experiential consequence of populating a hypostyle not with columnar solids but with planar elements joined to form vertical constructs that shape figural spaces both within and between them. Each of the twenty constructs comprising the installation is composed of four 3-foot by 8-foot 1-3/4-inch thick hollow-core doors: three joined to form an H-shaped vertical that is then capped by a fourth roofing the space below. Rotation of the constructs in alternating rows sequentially in both directions introduces a larger-scale order, further enhancing a complex interplay that blurs the distinction between solid and void, open and closed. One construct in the center row is omitted to create a gathering space within an otherwise uninterrupted array. A hypostyle thus constituted is without precedent, and its effect on the occupant cannot be fully predicted by drawings: it must be experienced.
Henry N. Cobb is a founding principal of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects, based in New York City. During the six decades since his firm was established in 1955, his practice has embraced a wide variety of building types in cities across North America and around the world. Throughout his career, he has coupled his professional activity with teaching, most intensively during a five-year term (1980-85) as Studio Professor and Chairman of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he continues to teach occasionally as a visiting lecturer. He is a recipient of the Gold Medal for Architecture, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education, awarded jointly by the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.
Installation project manager and SCI-Arc faculty member John Southern is the principal of Urban Operations, an architecture and research firm based in Los Angeles, California. The office specializes in both architecture and installation projects that expand critical discourse within the design profession. Through its research division, Urbanops.org, Urban Operations explores a wide variety of themes within contemporary discourse and produces publications that reveal and critique architectureís cultural impact upon the built environment. The firmís research projects and built work have appeared in exhibitions and publications around the world, including the 2012 Venice Biennale.