The American Institute of Architects and 10 other groups sent a letter to Congressional leaders Tuesday, warning that cuts to the Architect of the Capitol’s budget could lead to further deterioration of the U.S. Capitol and “wind up costing taxpayers more in the long run.”
Photos courtesy of the Office of the Capitol Architect
| The dome of the U.S. Capitol|
“There is little disagreement that the federal government, including Congress, must live within its means and be judicious in its consideration of short- and long-term expenditures,” the letter states. “However, the AOC’s FY2013 budget is focused primarily on needed maintenance and repair projects that are designed to keep the buildings of the Capitol complex—some of them nearly two centuries old—in proper working order.”
Among the projects at risk, the letter states, is the ongoing renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome and its supporting structures. The renovation work on the dome has been the subject of coverage in D+D; see Capitol Dome getting a repaint and $10.5 M Contract Awarded for Painting and Repairs to U.S. Capitol Dome.
“These projects are not discretionary, nor are they luxuries; their upkeep and maintenance is imperative to the effective operations of the Capitol. In fact, delays will undoubtedly lead to higher costs for taxpayers as defects worsen and repair costs rise due to inflation,” the letter adds.
“The U.S. Capitol is not merely Congress’ work space; it is also an attraction for millions of visitors from around the world, a shining example of American architecture—and home to priceless works of art—and a potential target for those who wish to do us harm,” the letter continues. “Delaying or cancelling needed improvements will make the Capitol complex less safe, harm the functioning of Congress and endanger our country’s cultural heritage.”
|A historical photo of the Capitol Dome under construction, circa 1858|
The letter was also signed by the American Society of Civil Engineers, ASHRAE, the Glass Association of North America, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, Ingersoll Rand, the Institute for Market Transformation, the National Institute of Building Sciences, AEC Science & Technology, Ecobuild America, and The Stella Group Ltd.
Capitol’s Crowning Feature: The Dome
The Capitol Dome, described as perhaps “the most famous man-made landmark in America” by the Office of the Capitol Architect, is comprised of nearly nine million pounds of fireproof cast iron and was designed by Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter to replace an original dome of copper and wood. The dome was built from 1855 to 1866.
Construction of the dome continued despite the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. To great fanfare, the last section of the Statue of Freedom was put in place atop the dome on Dec. 2, 1863, and the interior of the dome was completed in January 1866 with the removal of scaffolding from below Constantino Brumidi’s masterpiece fresco, the Apotheosis of Washington, 180 feet above the Rotunda floor.
Walter resigned on May 26, 1865, and was succeeded by Edward Clark, who completed the last details of the dome. Finished at the total cost of $1,047,291, the dome was constructed with 8,909,200 pounds of ironwork.