Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Tale of Two Capitols

I have opinions about what state capitols should look like, more or less. One thing they should not look like is this:

That is an office building. Moreover, it's an office building designed in the 1970s. If rating decades means anything at all, the '70s are as underrated as the '60s are overrated, but many of the office buildings created during those years are hard to like -- uninspired at best, ugly at worst, though of course ugly office buildings were being built in earlier decades. Anyway, the photo above is the uninspired state capitol of Florida. It isn't ugly, especially. But it isn't much of a capitol.

Strictly speaking, a capitol is an office building for government workers. But it ought to look like so much more: a hub of republican government, a statement by the state that distinguishes it from all the others, and at best a fine work of architecture. It can even be a skyscraper and achieve those things. Nebraska's capitol, which I saw a few years ago, does that.

I'd didn't see the inside of the 1977 Florida capitol because it's closed on weekends, so I won't say it's completely uninspired. Maybe it is, inside. For all its exterior 1950s-ness, for example, the United Nations headquarters manages to be interesting inside. But the outside of the Florida capitol might as well be an office building anywhere, except for the unadorned domes on either side of the main office shaft, which lend the complex a certain masculine aspect.

The old state capitol, vintage 1902, is across a nearly empty plaza from the newer capitol complex, and is now a museum. The contrast is hard to miss:

Now that's a capitol. Even though I arrived just before closing at about 4:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, I went in, and was well rewarded for my efforts. More about that tomorrow.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home