José Oubrerie and Steven Holl: Chapel of the Mosquitoes

Chapel of the Mosquitoes
A view of the José Oubrerie and Steven Holl exhibition Chapel of the Mosquitoes in John Hartell Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP
Chapel of the Mosquitoes
A view of the José Oubrerie and Steven Holl exhibition Chapel of the Mosquitoes in John Hartell Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP
Chapel of the Mosquitoes
A view of the José Oubrerie and Steven Holl exhibition Chapel of the Mosquitoes in John Hartell Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP
Chapel of the Mosquitoes
A view of the José Oubrerie and Steven Holl exhibition Chapel of the Mosquitoes in John Hartell Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP
A view of the José Oubrerie and Steven Holl exhibition Chapel of the Mosquitoes in John Hartell Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP A view of the José Oubrerie and Steven Holl exhibition Chapel of the Mosquitoes in John Hartell Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP A view of the José Oubrerie and Steven Holl exhibition Chapel of the Mosquitoes in John Hartell Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP A view of the José Oubrerie and Steven Holl exhibition Chapel of the Mosquitoes in John Hartell Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP

This exhibition presents three paintings and three buildings spanning some 43 years. Each project deals with fundamental architectural dichotomies: light-shade, enclosure-opening, and stasis-movement.

The Chapel of the Mosquitoes
Dutchess County, New York, 2015

The Miller House
Lexington, Kentucky, 1991

The French Cultural Center
Damascus, Syria, 1972

The Damascus project is conceived of as a continuous interior surface. Its enclosed continuous interiority relates in part to the formal complexity of Le Corbusier's Villa La Roche, and, in part, to a new architectural topology, a "Moebiusian" one.

While the Miller House deals with the "explosion of the cube," (i.e. with fragmentation), its spatial structure is reminiscent of Theo van Doesburg's diagrams. Every one of its fragments is a building by itself, autonomous, yet interrelated to the others.

Damascus and Miller House constitute two opposite spatial investigations whose formal conflicting approaches are synthesized in the Chapel of the Mosquitoes (the Chapel). The Chapel becomes a contraction of these two projects, and at the same time, possesses attributes of both.

The Chapel, commissioned and encouraged by Steven Holl for his residential and gallery complex in Rhinebeck, New York, features a light-water diagonal conduit that pierces the roof and floor and is a contemporary interpretation of a ladder in a kiva — a traditional round Pueblo Indian form — in which the ladder joins the sky and earth. There is no real sipapu, the round hole in the kiva's floor through which the spirits of the ancients can exude. However, in the Chapel, the ground is visible and the floor sometimes retracts; it practically enters inside, or reciprocally, the floor extends and reaches the outside.

The Chapel represents a dialogue between Oubrerie and Holl, where creative comradery fueled new work and fresh ways of representing architectural ideas. Behind the scenes and influencing the work are days of good wine and food, walks and conversation, and the sharing of books and travels. Friendship can be as potent an architectural tool as much as any technique or technology can be. Holl prompts Oubrerie, pushes him. Oubrerie pushes back; better and better work ensues.

This exhibition was made possible with the support of 'T'space gallery, Steven Holl, and José Oubrerie. To contribute to the Chapel of Mosquitoes construction fund, please contact the Steven Myron Holl Foundation at stevenmyronhollfoundation.com. This architectural charity will match all contributions.