Thursday, February 27, 2020

Classical vs Modernist, Federal Buildings of Washington DC

This is a visual survey presented in chronological order by date of construction completion of all of the Federal buildings under the purview of the General Services Administration in Washington DC. Please follow this link to jump to the GSA Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture and Federal buildings by the Ad Hoc Committee on Federal Office Space, June 1, 1962 and the continued visual survey of Federal buildings constructed in Washington DC after the publication of these guidelines.

1800 - The White House

1819 - Dolley Madison House

1820 - DC Court of Appeals

1828 - Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House

1839 - General Post Office

1848 - Winder Building
1878 - Cosmo Club

1880 - Sidney Yates Building

1882 - The Webster School

1887 - National Building Museum

1888 - Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office

1910 - United States Court of Military Appeals
1911 - US Civil Service Commission Building
1917 - GSA Headquarters

1918 - Veterans Administration Building

1919 - Liberty Loan Building

1928 - Federal Home Loan Bank Building

1931 - The National Archives

1932 - Herbert C. Hoover Building

1932 - Department of the Interior South Building

1934 - The William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building East

1934 - Mellon Auditorium

1934 - The William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building West

1935 - Robert F. Kennedy Building

1936 - Superior Court Building A

1936 - Superior Court Building C

1936 - Department of the Interior Building

1936 - GSA-Regional Office Building

1936 - The Internal Revenue Service Building
1938 - Superior Court Building B

1938 - Federal Trade Commission Building

1939 - Wilbur J. Cohen

1939 - Harry S. Truman Building

1940 - Lafayette Building

1940 - Mary E. Switzer Memorial Building

1951 - General Accounting Office Building

1952 - E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse

1961 - The Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building

Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture

In the course of its consideration of the general subject of Federal office space, the committee has given some thought to the need for a set of principles which will guide the Government in the choice of design for Federal buildings. The committee takes it to be a matter of general understanding that the economy and suitability of Federal office space derive directly from the architectural design. The belief that good design is optional, or in some way separate from the question of the provision of office space itself, does not bear scrutiny, and in fact invites the least efficient use of public money.

The design of Federal office buildings, particularly those to be located in the nation’s capital, must meet a two-fold requirement. First, it must provide efficient and economical facilities for the use of Government agencies. Second, it must provide visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American Government.

It should be our object to meet the test of Pericles’ evocation to the Athenians, which the President commended to the Massachusetts legislature in his address of January 9, 1961 : “We do not imitate-for we are a model to others.”

The committee is also of the opinion that the Federal Government, no less than other public and private organizations concerned with the construction of new buildings, should take advantage of the increasingly fruitful collaboration between architecture and the fine arts.

With these objects in view, the committee recommends a three point architectural policy for the Federal Government.

  1. The policy shall be to provide requisite and adequate facilities in an architectural style and form which is distinguished and which will reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American National Government. Major emphasis should be placed on the choice of designs that embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought. Specific attention should be paid to the possibilities of incorporating into such designs qualities which reflect the regional architectural traditions of that part of the Nation in which buildings are located. Where appropriate, fine art should be incorporated in the designs, with emphasis on the work of living American artists. Designs shall adhere to sound construction practice and utilize materials, methods and equipment of proven dependability. Buildings shall be economical to build, operate and maintain, and should be accessible to the handicapped.
  2. The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government and not vice versa. The Government should be willing to pay some additional cost to avoid excessive uniformity in design of Federal buildings. Competitions for the design of Federal buildings may be held where appropriate. The advice of distinguished architects ought to, as a rule, be sought prior to the award of important design contracts.
  3. The choice and development of the building site should be considered the first step of the design process. This choice should be made in cooperation with local agencies. Special attention should be paid to the general ensemble of streets and public places of which Federal buildings will form a part. Where possible. buildings should be located so as to permit a generous development of landscape.

What follows is the applied interpretation of those principles by the Modernist architectural establishment entrenched in academia and government bureaus.

1963 - Orville Wright Federal Building

1963 - Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building

1964 - Wilbur Wright Federal Building
1968 - HUD Building

1969 - James V. Forrestal Building

1969 - New Executive Office

1972 - US Tax Court

1975 - Frances Perkins Federal Building

1975 - J. Edgar Hoover Building
1976 - H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse

1977 - Hubert Humphrey Building

1992 - Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary

1997 - FBI DC Field Office

1997 - William B. Bryant U.S. Courthouse Annex

1998 - Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
2002 - GSA Headquarters Modernisation

2008 - Ariel Rios Federal Building

2011 - DC Court of Appeals Pavilion


Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Federal Building

Contributed by Patrick Webb

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