Newsletter | Mar/Apr 2021

White Columns and Elongated Dome
by Bobbie Sue Hood

Olmsted redesigned the "back side" of the Capitol to make it grand and handsome - and to connect it to the White House and other government buildings. His work is what made it possible to conceal the underground tram or railway which runs from the Capitol to the Old Nacy Building and other office buildings for the House and Senate. It is a very interesting example of where an architectural/landscape goal contributed directly to planning and architecture decisions which modernized (by making invisible, underground) connections between the Capitol and it's "server" buildings. My whole goal was to talk about how buildings become iconic - what separates ordinary buildings or indigenous buildings from designed architecture.

I just thought it very interesting that the insurgency followed Frederick Law Olmsted's directions! He made the building truly in the round - with no backside!

I could find no explanation for the weird columniation of the East facade with two pairs of double columns on the outside of the main portico and two single columns sort of like a doorway in the center. Anyhow, I thought all of those subtleties were intriguing and fascianting. You can play a lot with columns and masses!

I think few if any modern American architects including our heroes and heroines are very good at monumentality - something that the Italians and French and Chinese are very good at, for example. We temp to be too democratic to do good monumental buildings. The amazing thing about the Capitol is that it is American and monumental - a very successful piece of architecture in my view. And many, many different people worked on it.

Like pornography, good architecture is hard to define. But you know it when you see it. How the attack on our National May Save Democracy in the United States: The Power of Great Architecture when It Really Counts.

For the past 12 years or so, since the election of Barack Obama, a black man, as the president of the United States, our country has been increasingly churned by vicious, often false right wing fascism. This anger arose from many people who saw people of color and women leaders as threats to White Supremacy. Conspiracy terrorists fueled by right wing media have inflamed people who felt that their own privilege and white supremacy was losing clout. Right Wing media founds ways to inflame science-hating “left-behinds” to pass tax breaks for the wealthy and priviledged ,further separating the haves from the have-nots.

These discontented science-hating and conservative Christians descended on Washington DC in response to the President’s claim that he had been cheated out of victory in the November 3, 2020 presidential election A preplanned “demonstration” was fueled and equipped not only to march on the Capitol in Washington DC but also to “take” the capitol and remove any elected leaders who opposed deposing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Our errant President egged on raucus civilian demonstrators who quickly proved to be seditionists aiming to kill Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, Mike Pence, the Republican VP, and any loose anti-seditionist senators or representatives hanging around the building.

There was inside help as well – still being ferreted out by the FBI and Intelligence services. But the seditionists actually took the Capitol for about six hours, even as additional police and national guards were denied entry to Washington DC for fear it would “look bad.” Terrified Senators and Representatives were forced to hide and shelter in place. The demonstrators refused to wear facial masks, which has assisted the FBI in identifying them. But it has also spread COVID-19 to elected leaders in the Capital.
This political trend has been happening for years - the splits in how Americans perceive reality have been growing, as citizens found themselves in liberal or conservative “silos” with different and often opposing views of reality, power, and justice. But somehow the deep crevice did not inspire significant action to stop the rumors and conspiracy mongering until the seditionists attacked our beautiful, historic Capital. I have wondered what could possible heal the crevice in our political realities, if anything, and there is hope at last on the horizon It is in the form of a building constructed over about 150 years, which has become a symbol in America and around the world of the most powerful democracy in the world – the United States. In the end, it was the architecture itself – a monument which represented a healthy democracy world wide, which inspired the FBI, capital politics, and Washington bystanders to throw the seditionists out of the building and restore order.

As the building was breeched and threatened, it inspired good people to stand up and fight for what was right and do it without wasting any more time. The building saved itself because of what it represented to America and the world beyond.
The 2020 Pandemic has been an unprecedented test for architects as well as other Americans to redefine what they stand for, and what remains standing even in the most challenging of times. We realize that symbols and doing what’s right supercedes ordinary concerns like health, money, and time. We concentrate on what’s really important, what gets us up in the morning to work through the day, even when we have no clients to serve, or codes to meet.

We think of how to restore natural vegetation, whether our local bird life needs some supplementary feeding, and whether or not we are irrigation native vegetation enough to ride out the drought that has accompanied this terrible pandemic in California.
Residential architecture has kept me feeling secure in this pandemic even as I saw increasing victims on TV. Native birds have experienced a comeback a background traffic noise stopped.