D.C. Sights Among Top U.S. Buildings

Posted February 7, 2007 at 5:04pm

At a Wednesday morning press conference held by the American Institute of Architects to release its poll of the top 150 works of American Architecture, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) made light of the less-than-desirable design of the building where the meeting was held.

“It’s ironic that we’re having our session here today in the Rayburn building. That is not likely to be on anyone’s list for favorite buildings,” Blumenauer said. “This building has, I think, 17 percent usable space, 22 percent parking and nobody can find their way anywhere.”

Still, many other prominent Washington, D.C., structures, including the Capitol, did receive ranking on the list, which was compiled using a random sample of more than 1,800 Americans from a list of structures pre-selected by an AIA panel.

Out of the list’s top 10 buildings, six included landmarks located on and around the National Mall. New York’s Empire State Building kept the White House from receiving the No. 1 ranking, followed by the Washington National Cathedral, ranked third, and the Jefferson Memorial, receiving the No. 4 designation.

Although the U.S. Capitol didn’t check in until sixth place, AIA President RK Stewart mentioned that “some of the greatest architects of the 19th century contributed to the design” of the building.

The final two D.C. monuments that made the top 10 were the Lincoln Memorial, which earned the seventh place slot, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, coming in at 10th place. The latter memorial also received mention as the only structure in the highest-ranked group designed by a woman, and it received the 2007 Twenty-five Year Award, which recognizes structures of enduring significance completed 25 to 35 years ago.

Throughout the rest of the top 150 sites, Washington and Capitol Hill made the list repeatedly with structures including the Supreme Court Building at No. 15, the Library of Congress at 28 and the National Gallery of Art’s West Building at 34.

Blumenauer took time during the press conference to reference his plans to introduce legislation, H. Con. Res. 53, with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that would recognized the AIA for its 150 years of achievements and the 281,000 architects for their contributions.

Addressing AIA members at the news conference, Blumenauer spoke of the proposed legislation, which he hopes to pass in March, saying, “We can work with you here in Congress to be your partners and be able to not only recognize the contributions of the profession but be able to work together to build on them in the future.”

The AIA will celebrate its 150th anniversary with the theme “Celebrating the Past, Designing the Future,” by showcasing three major programs: the top 150 poll presented today; “Blueprints for America,” a grass-roots program aimed at engaging architects across the country in furthering development; and National Architecture Week, slated for April 9-14, which will feature a traveling exhibit of the structures honored through the organization’s anniversary. For more information, or to give input regarding the results of the top 150 poll, visit www.aia150.org.