Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If Only it Were a Dodecahedron

Yet again, my misconceptions of Washington and government run abound. I had always presumed that the shape of the Pentagon was symbolic of American defense. Each side was a different branch, and if you had asked me I would have said it was the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Department of Defense. Then too, I figured that a pentagram is a symbol of freemasonry and George Washington, who lived nearby, was a freemason and was also the first general of the military--so the Pentagon shape was the obvious choice. There. Solved. I’m sure Tom Hanks in The da Vinci Code would agree with me.

Unlike so many of the democratic themed federal buildings, there is no symbolism behind the pentagonal shape. In fact, when the government purchased Arlington Farm as the site for the Department of War building, the design was chosen simply because the farm was an irregular pentagon. Engineer Lieutenant Colonel Hugh J. Casey and architect George Bergstrom was told that his design could be no more than 5 stories tall and use as little steel as possible. These constraints meant that the space would need to be sprawled out. More space was needed in order to house all the employees, so the government purchased land around the Potomac, including the former slum of Hell’s Bottom—leveling it to make space. The shape of the Pentagon became a regular-sided pentagon. Upon completion it would be the largest office space in America, covering 29 acres and accommodating 40,000 workers and a parking lot for 8,000.

Construction began September 11, 1941 (coincidence?). After the December attack on Pearl Harbor, construction sped up. As part of the war effort, the building was redesigned to minimize materials needed. For example bonze doors were eliminated and concrete drainpipes were installed instead of metal. The building was completed in 1943. The three year project was accomplished in just 16 months, which just goes to show that when the government wants to “Git Ur Dun” they really can.

Source: The Pentagon

No comments:

Post a Comment