Colonnades of Culture
MNB 02 - 09 - 2010

While observing the Hypostyle court of Karnak Temple, I could not help but think about how different this colonnaded space is from the colonnades of the Parthenon back in Athens. The two spaces both are leading to the sanctuary parts and are sort of transitional spaces, but the feeling inside of these two colonnades is quite different. The colonnade here, at Karnak Temple, is massive and so much more spiritual. Walking through this space makes one realize how small they are compared to these columns. The colonnade here is supposed to evoke the story of creation with the lotus flower capitals emerging from the great flood. This relation also puts in perspective the scale of human being compared to eternal gods and prehistoric events. Furthermore, there is not much free space that is not occupied by structural elements, making this space more about the look and the feel of the space than a particular function. Furthermore the narratives on the columns reinforce ideas, concepts and beliefs of the Egyptian cults and pharaohnic orders. Back in Athens, the colonnade of the Parthenon seems to be much simpler to the naked eye, even though it is carefully engineered and fine tuned. The decoration of the colonnade consists of the capitals, the fluting of the columns and the friezes. The columns are functional pieces that support the lintels of the roof and define the space. However, the details of the columns, like the size of fluting, corresponds to human scale. Also, the spacing of the columns creates a light and airy space. Even though the technology of construction and the material of the columns guided a lot of the design decisions in these spaces, they also reflect the cultural differences between these two cultures. In Egypt, there is quite a certain hierarchy in the social class and mortals are nothing in front of gods and pharaohs, making the hypostyle court a strategic design to make sure everybody knew their place in society. Religion was also much more important in Egypt than in Periclean Athens, thus creation of sacred and spiritual space was much more important for Egyptians. In Greece, the power of individuals was much greater and the columns there reflect it with human scale elements and decorations.

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