At the time this article was
written George M. White was Architect of the Capitol in Washington D.C.
The title "Architect of the
Capitol" is somewhat of a misnomer, although architecture is the basis for
the fundamental activity of the office. Over the years the office has evolved
into a department which responds to congressional needs not only in
architecture but also in administration, management, construction, art,
institutional history, security, food service, botany, real estate, finances,
development and telecommunications.
The physical jurisdiction of the
Architect includes more than 200 acres of Capitol Grounds generally known as
the Federal portion of Capitol Hill. It contains the Capitol Building, three
Senate Office Buildings, three House Office Buildings, a number of annex
buildings for both the House and Senate, the Supreme Court, the three buildings
of the Library of Congress, the Capitol Power plant and the United States
Botanic Garden Conservatory and park.
The Architect belongs to both
Houses of Congress and yet to neither one exclusively. Many functions thus
require that the office conduct affairs diplomatically as well as competently.
There are approximately 2500 employees under the jurisdiction of the Architect
whose annual budget averages approximately $100 million not including major
capital improvements or major restoration projects are funded on a separate
The Office is divided into basic
functional areas, covering design, construction management property management
and other areas. With respect to the design function, the office is responsible
for all of the architectural and engineering design work for all new and
existing buildings on the Hill. New buildings, of course, are not constructed
very often but whenever they are, the design work, although generally
accomplished by associate architects from the private sector, is under the
jurisdiction of the Architect of the Capitol. The existing buildings are under
continuous modification, improvement and restoration. In addition, interior
design work for office modifications and changes in decor are all a part of
Another functional area is
construction management. The office is responsible for all of the construction
that takes place within its jurisdiction. New construction as well as existing
construction modifications are managed. Most of the new construction is done by
private sector contractors directed by the Construction Management Division.
There are, of course, projects taking place continuously that require
construction management on a daily basis. There are four to five hundred such
projects at any one time varying in value from a few hundred to several million
dollars. Cost control, scheduling, material procurement, work done by
government forces and private sector contracting are all controlled by the
Construction Management Division.
The third function area is property
management. There are some 24,000 people working on the Hill every day. The
office is responsible for providing adequate physical facilities in which their
various prescribed duties can be carried on. Property management includes
responding to various needs of the building occupants such as maintenance of
the buildings, cleaning and other services.
The fourth functional area is termed
"General", and includes such responsibilities as the operation of the
Capitol Power Plant, which supplies the steam and chilled water for all of the
buildings on the Hill, the care and maintenance of the Capitol Grounds which
includes street repair, snow removal, the operation of the United States
Botanic Garden, including the Conservatory, located on Capitol Hill, and 25
acres located several miles away where nursery and greenhouses for all of the
plant needs on the Hill are located.
As the Office evolved, a number of
specific duties were assigned to the Architect by law. Permanent authority for
the care and maintenance of the Capitol was provided by the Congress in August
1876. That authority has been expanded from time to time to provide for the care
and maintenance of additional buildings and grounds.
The Architect is in charge of
making arrangements with proper authorities for ceremonies held in and about
the Capitol and grounds. He has responsibility for the structural and
mechanical care of the Library of Congress Buildings and the Supreme Court
Subject to the direction of the
Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, the Architect is charged with the
structural, mechanical, domestic care and maintenance of the Senate Office
buildings including the Senate Subway. In addition, the Architect is
responsible for the operation of the Senate Restaurants. Under the direction of
the House Office Building Commission, the Architect is responsible for the
structural, mechanical, domestic care and maintenance of the House Office
Under direction of the Joint
Committee of the Library, the Architect serves as Acting Director of the United
States Botanic Garden. He also serves as a member of the Capitol Police Board,
the Capitol Guide Board, the House Page Board, the District of Columbia Zoning
Commission, the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development
Corporation, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. In addition, he
is a member of the Art Advisory Committee to the Washington Metropolitan
Transit Authority, the National Capital Memorial Commission which advises the
Secretary of the Interior with regard to proposed memorials on Federal land in
Washington, the National Institute for Conservation, and serves as co-ordinator
of Civil Defense for the Capitol group of buildings.
Current preservation programs
include the restoration of the structure and the original sandstone veneer of
the West Front of the Capitol and the restoration of the Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams Buildings. In the park of the Botanic Gardens
the cast iron fountain designed by Auguste Bartholdi, who created the Statue of
Liberty, was restored this year. In addition, an active art conservation
program maintains the approximately 800 works of art of the Capitol collection.
Recently, frescoes and wall paintings by Constantino Brumidi have been a
priority. The fresco frieze painted by Brumidi in the Rotunda has just been
cleaned and work on the canopy under the dome will start this year.
A recently established and
important challenge for the Architect is the provision of modern
telecommunications and television systems for the Congress. During 1986 the
Office of the Architect provided logistical support for the implementation of
live television coverage of Senate proceedings as had been accomplished in the
House of Representatives chamber in 1979. A final major challenge facing the
Architects's office concerns the provision of the physical security needs for
Congress, its buildings and grounds in the face of the need to retain the
openness necessary for citizen participation and access. To provide the most
modern of security systems for the benefit of Congress while preserving the
architectural heritage of the Capitol and grounds, is the major goal. The
Security Enhancement Project, currently under study, is anticipated to be
implemented in the near future.
The Architect has recently been
directed to conduct a feasibility study regarding the development and
construction, by means of a public-private partnership, of a building on
Capitol Grounds for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. If
the Congress should decide to proceed with this project after reviewing the
results of the study, a new concept in providing office space for federal use
will have been launched.