Friday, January 16, 2009

U.S. Capital Visitor Center

After years of delay and millions over budget, the Visitor Center at the U.S. Capital opened to the public recently. I went to check it out and see what might be of interest to building collectors and architecture fans. The center was constructed underground on the east side of the building so as not to detract from the appearance of the Capitol and of the grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1874. At nearly 580,000 square feet on three levels, The CVC is the largest project in the Capitol’s 215-year history and is approximately three quarters the size of the Capitol itself. Its an enormous, granite-lined open space with exhibition halls, theaters, gifts shops and a restaurant. Of interest to architectural fans include the touchable, scale-model, cross-section of the Capitol Dome with views of the exterior and interior structure. A large replica of the Statue of Freedom, which stands on the top of the U.S. Capital dome, is a centerpiece. A series of 3-D models display the changes to Capital Hill from a forested area, to the building of the capital, changes to the mall and then the appearance of the Supreme Court and Library of Congress buildings. The two gift shops were a disappointment however. There were only a few items of interest to building collectors where a blown-glass capital dome ornament, large white resin dome bookends and a variety of white resin capital replicas.

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