presidents and architecture


Steve Vogel’s interesting new book, The Pentagon: A History, tells the story of the design and construction of what is still the largest office building in the world—4 million square feet. One of the surprising facts to emerge from this thoroughly researched narrative is the degree to which the then-president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, involved himself in the project. For example, he played a major role in the selection of the site. The Army and the Department of War had opted for a prominent spot, at the foot of the Arlington Memorial Bridge and directly across the Potomac from the Lincoln Memorial. The Commission of Fine Arts, charged with overseeing design in the capital, objected on the grounds that the immense building would block the main axis of L’Enfant’s plan, and the matter landed on Roosevelt’s desk. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, who was in charge of the project, insisted on the original location. “My dear general,” FDR hotly responded, “I’m still commander-in-chief of the Army!” The building was moved to its present, less obtrusive site.

more from Slate here.