It has been disconcerting if not downright depressing to see the dome of the United State Capitol shrouded in scaffolding these past two years. Ditto the Washington Monument when it was being repaired. Unlike the great obelisk, no calls to keep the dome cloaked as a work of “art” have been heard, so far as I know, thank goodness. But shhh! The swamp has not yet been drained, so you can never be too careful.
The Obama administration, working with the Office of the Architect of the Capitol and the General Services Administration, deserves kudos for keeping this project under budget and on time, especially with the Inauguration of the next president upcoming.
“The U.S. Capitol Dome Restoration Is Complete,” in Architect, the journal of the American Institute of Architects, is a matter-of-fact account of the work. Since the AIA is among those who would probably applaud if Obama had instead proposed to replace the old dome with something more edgy, one can only hope that the authors of the Architect piece, Chelsea Blahut and Wanda Lau, are not in their editor’s doghouse for playing it too straight.
I wish I had at hand my copy of the late Henry Hope Reed’s masterful volume on the art and architecture of the Capitol. Alas, it is AWOL, hiding in our basement. So I will quote our first president from the architecture primer Architecture in America: A Battle of Styles, co-edited by the great Henry Reed. On July 23, 1792, President Washington, at Mount Vernon, wrote a letter to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia as early plans for a capitol were being discussed. He wrote: “The Dome, which is suggested as an Addition to the center of the edifice, would, in my opinion, give a beauty and grandeur to the pile.”
Ah, with its dome lovingly restored, the pile is safe, at least for now.