Amidst the various cultures of architecture I’ve learned about, I find that Greek architecture, specifically classical Greek, was the most advanced and fascinating style of ancient time. The Greeks were obsessed with order and translated geometry into their architecture, which I feel was ahead of their time and carried futuristic ideals. With this said, determining a style that would flaunt Oprah Winfrey’s persona in a building developed naturally, as did the decision to locate the building in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey’s birthplace (Leonard). My intent in the overall design of the building is inspired by the Parthenon (Fig. 3), which pays homage to the Greek goddess Athena. Oprah and Athena, in both modern and ancient times, procured high respect and value for their wisdom, justice, and strength. As a result of their profound similarities in their ideals and virtues, I designed The Honorary Temple of Oprah.
World-renowned talk show host, media executive and producer, and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey defied every African American female stigma, which led her to obtain an iconic status. Oprah emerged as first a black child in the segregated South to a college “queen” and then successfully declared her position on mainstream media (Leonard 264). Even beginning her career, she made large strides in both the desegregation movement and the, less popular at the time, feminist movement. Oprah began her career in 1976 with WTVF-TV in Nashville as the first black television news anchor.
Later in Maryland she became the host of the morning talk show People Are Talking and shortly following relocated to Chicago in 1983 to host A.M. Chicago for WLS-TV (Leonard 264). Oprah’s success in all of her positions propelled her career and ultimately guided the beginning of the famous, The Oprah Winfrey Show. Throughout her staggering 25 years as the host of her own show, every episode surpassed the usual television anatomy of pure entertainment, instead Oprah ventured into the “sites of critique, angst, and renegotiation” (Leonard 263-264). She continuously gave back to her followers, specifically; despite starting her final season of The Oprah Winfrey Show she surprised her audience with an “all-expense-paid trip to Australia” (Leonard 275). Years later, she still remains a household name and generous at fault. All aspects of Oprah Winfrey’s career point to the need of celebrating her and her accomplishments and the many cultural and political obstacles she faced in order to be as successful as she is today which therefore brings my building into existence.
From the very beginning, Oprah has shown importance in the media community and stands out as one of the best. My building will best serve as a tribute to her and will further highlight her role in changing racial discourse and increasing African American and female presence in television. To best display her qualities in the site, I chose the classical Greek style because most of its architecture embodies and highlights Greek gods and goddesses, which I believe Oprah symbolizes in today’s world.
The way I see it is the more unique the building is―the better. To many, Oprah Winfrey is known as the patron saint of Mississippi, thus it is only right to locate The Honorary Temple of Oprah in Kosciusko, Mississippi (Fig. 5). Kosciusko is a rural town that Oprah was born in and consists of mostly flat land that will serve perfect for the site. Although it may be thought that a European heavy culture design will look out of place, the Attala County Courthouse (Fig. 2) comprised of four large columns along the facade of the large building that coheres with classical Greek elements. This context with help engage the people of Mississippi with the site.
The intentions of my design (Fig. 1) include following a traditional classical Greek style including unique modernistic features that support Oprah’s identity. I chose to gain inspiration from Greek temples because temples hold multiple purposes like fulfilling sanctuary, sacrificial, or offering needs but can also be used for dedication in which they include statues and hold processions and festivities (Jones). Besides Athena and Oprah’s similar personas, I chose the Parthenon because it was seen as “a potent symbol of the growing wealth and power of the empire” (Connelly 85) and Oprah Winfrey most definitely holds power in the television community and female population.
Moreover, the Parthenon’s design with Athena’s statue (Fig. 4) aided my choice to utilize a statue of Oprah as the central focal point of the site to clearly pay tribute to her. However, while the Parthenon used water to reflect Athena’s statue, I plan to use mirrors that will successfully emphasize the statue of Oprah while make the building feel more open and achieve zero destruction of walkable space. The interior of the temple will comprise of two cellas both with inner wall peristyles that will allow people to enter from more than one side. The transparency of the cella walls having multiple entrances and openness of the entire temple reflect on Oprah’s transparency to her viewers. Continuing with the classical Greek culture, my design will consist of a singular colonnade that wraps around the perimeter of the rectangular stylobate which emphasizes Oprah’s independence, in other words, she lifted herself up to success despite her less fortunate childhood.
The stereobate will include more levels than the Parthenon to symbolize the several mountains that Oprah figuratively climbed. I also intend for the columns to all be ionic because the style’s purpose is to “impress the eye” (Jones 113). The temple’s large pediment will be decorated with simplistic frieze and will make the overall building visually appealing. The profile of this building is to be seen from any direction. The cella walls are place on the north and south ends of the temple and allow the statue to be seen even when one may be outside of the building. This guarantees the public aspect and goal for my design, where everyone is welcome to honor Oprah. Overall, my unique design will further implement Oprah Winfrey’s persona because she is always one to stands out amongst several other famous celebrities that have also accomplished equally important things as she has in her career.
As the first woman in history to own and produce her own talk show, Oprah Winfrey is the epitome of a role model. Her continued success with a following of no ethnic, gender, educational, or age bounds qualifies her to be honored and celebrated at the highest standard (Landrum 375-376). It is with this ideology that I designed a place where Oprah Winfrey’s impact can forever be remembered even while she still lives and continues to make history. The choice of using classical Greek culture should only further the representation I included within my design. The usage of my design values the space to be utilized as a location where flowers and decorations can be brought and possible appearances by Oprah could occur to fully welcome the temple into a well-known status. To conclude, the significance of Oprah Winfrey and her ongoing accomplishments prove a demand for her impact to be defined into the world of architecture.