|The Capitol of the United States.|
Buildings may blatantly telegraph their function. Hot dog stands in the shape of hot dogs. Ice cream shops as oversized canisters of cream. Motels as concrete teepees. These examples are kitsch; they hardly qualify as architecture. Buildings with more august functions usually employ subtle cues to communicate their function. This is when design transcends structure. It is particularly fascinating to contemplate the architecture of power. Can architecture be used to support the very idea of political power? There is no better place to look for an answer than the capital of the free world, Washington, D.C.
|Little Man ice cream stand in Denver.|
|Roadside hot dog in Colorado.|
|Iconic images of the U.S. Capitol.|
Finally, the interior of the Capitol building is, put plainly, a let down. Without question, other domed spaces are more impressive than the hall under the Capitol dome. Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, St. Peter's in Rome, the Duomo in Florence - all stand superior. Then we have the Senate and House chambers. When I visited, neither house was in session; it was easy to stroll through and get a sense of the architecture. Many state capitols are better designed than this national assembly. The Senate and House chambers are stuffy rooms, mechanically de-odorized as if there is some stench that needs to be masked. The windowless spaces, festooned with heavy velvet swags, felt like a funeral home. It was depressing to think that some of the most important decisions in the world are made in this environment. On a scale of one to ten, the Capitol interiors rate three.
Please don't think I am unpatriotic.
|Aerial view of U.S. Capitol.|