TheaTour!: Stephens Auditorium

Can architecture be both modern and primal? Stephens Auditorium at the Iowa State Center, a recent stop of mine, argues yes! it can! For proof, first examine the jagged, toothlike boxes (above) than hang over the vast orchestra (below).

They’re equal parts Modernism and tribalism, reason and fury, security and danger, violent, giant spears put to contemporary use. Looking at them, I think of mod, Le Corbusier-like starchitects, but also of ancient, primitive South American clans. Quite the coupling, eh?

This odd dance of eras plays out all over the space, from the cavern of the house…

… to the starship-meets-temple exterior.

It’s even present in the exquisite patterns of béton brut (“raw concrete”) that tattoo the building’s in- and exteriors. (Béton brut is a gorgeous style in which the imprints of wooden, concrete molds are left intact rather than smoothed over.) It literally collides old world and new, embossing the present with the past.

Of course, down in the dressing rooms all that matters is makeup and props and water bottles… concerns, I might add, surely shared by those ritualistic, ancient tribespeople.

Past and present… not so separate after all.









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