Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jury Duty Week

United States Tax Court

So I've been stuck in Jury Duty all week in the oh so typical DC Superior Courthouse. I've decided there are only two good things about Jury Duty - being close enough to the National Mall to eat lunch there and having random spots of down time to write blog entries. Perhaps it’s just the boredom, but we’re going to shake things up here by going modern - mid century modern! A neighboring building to the DC Courthouse, the U.S. Tax Court Building was built by architect Victor Lundy in 1965 (dead smack Mad Men era). Government construction in the 1960s was heavily influenced by the 1962 "Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture"; created for President Kennedy by the Ad Hoc Committee on Federal Office Space in an attempt to improve the quality of federal buildings. This was a significant step for the government to take as the committee correctly assessed that citizens would take more pride in their government and employees would take more pride in their jobs if their buildings were attractive.

The original Tax Court was located in the Internal Revenue Service Building that was built in the 1930s. By 1962 the need for the Court to have it’s own space was great, and the U.S. General Services Administration allocated $450,000 for the design of a new building. Architect Victor Lundy was so well respected in the field for his modernist sensibilities and inventive engineering that he was awarded the contract without competition. Lundy’s Modern design is best expressed in the striking cantilevered courtroom, which made use of technological advances in construction to achieve its dramatic appearance. The 4,000-ton courtroom block, which projects over the entrance, is supported by compression and post-tensioned bridges and steel cables located within the building’s walls. This innovative engineering is conveyed on the building’s interior as the compression and tension bridges are also used as interior circulation bridges.

In 1967, New York Times architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable described the plans for the U.S. Tax Court Building as "a progressive, sensitive, contemporary solution fully responsive to Washington's classical tradition and yet fully part of the mid-20th century--a period of exceptional vigor and beauty in the history of structure and design." Today the Tax Court is still regarded as one of the most sophisticated examples of Modernism in Washington.

Photo by Carol Highsmith for GSA


GSA Building Overview, U.S. Tax Court http://www.gsa.gov/Portal/gsa/ep/buildingView.do?pageTypeId=17109&bid=1264&channelPage=%2Fep%2Fchannel%2FgsaOverview.jsp&channelId=-25241&reason=bldgNameNos

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