7. Hatshepsut’s Temple

Everything possible about Hatshepsut’s temple (try not to see it as ‘modernist’ avant la lettre).

Queen Hatshepsut made the news this week with reports that her impact had been covered up by her successor (stepson); she was a far more prolific builder than previously thought. Sorkin here implores a reading of her namesake temple that does not focus on the fact that it looks like a lot of modernist architecture from the 20th century (Neimeyer’s National Congress in Brasilia, Lincoln Center or Chandigarh). This temple was covered in a first year history class, but those notes are lost to time (or storage). It is primarily composed of three colonnades with two large courts connected by two large ramps (better description here). Aligning with the winter solstice, the interior of the temple acts as a light box shining sunlight upon various statues within the space.

The temple was not intended to be read as a work of pure geometry stripped of most ornament (modernist), but these elements outlasted much of the statue iconography. Later, Greek temples were works of technicolor opulence, only fading to bare marble decades or centuries after the fact. If that colorful paint had stayed, would all the neoclassical government buildings co-opting Grecian architecture (not just in America but the West in general) be just as colorful?

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