Is it ever a bad time to be feeling patriotic? We think not. We decided we'd check out what some of America's favorite pieces of architecture and design were and share them with you. A little tour of the great U.S. of A., shall we?
It turns out, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) researched this in 2006 and 2007. They interviewed over 2,000 members and asked them to identify their favorite structures across the USA before doing a survey of the general public to narrow down the list. In 2007 they announced the results for their 150th anniversary, listing the top 150 highest ranked structures. You can check out that full list of 150 right here.
Let's take a deeper look into the top 5 structures on the list.
1. Empire State Building
Location - New York City, NY
Architects - William F. Lamb
Style - Art Deco
No surprise here that the famed Empire State Building tops the list at the number one spot of America's Favorite Architecture! This 102 story historical landmark located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City was the first building to have more than 100 floors. First designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986 the construction began in 1930 and is known for its gorgeous Art Deco style that was typical of pre-WWII architecture in New York. The lobby is 3 stories high and featured shiny art deco ceilings until it was covered with ceiling tiles and lighting in the 60s, it was since restored in 2009.
The Empire State Building has a long and very interesting history leading up to its iconic status. In 1933 King Kong was released in NYC, putting all eyes on the Empire State Building as the famed gorilla climbs the building in the iconic scene.
Although King Kong didn't actually do any damage to the Empire State Building, in 1945 a B-25 Bomber did. On a foggy Saturday morning a B-25 bomber crashed into the 79th floor leaving a 20 foot gash on the building, and yet it was business-as-usual come Monday morning. The crash resulted in the death of 14 people.
As you can imagine, the Empire State building has endured multiple renovations and improvements since it's construction in 1930, some of them taking longer than the original construction! In 1993 over 6,000 windows were replaced, making the largest window replacement ever authorized. The remodeling of the beautiful Art Deco lobby is unveiled in September of 2009. Also in 2009 the Empire State Building became the global model for retrofitting existing buildings to make them more energy efficient. This groundbreaking energy efficiency retrofit program would result in in the ESB receiving the Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. EPA in 2011, as well and exceeding projected energy savings in 2011 and 2012, reducing costs by millions of dollars.
2. The White House
Location - Washington, DC
Architects - James Hoban
Style - Neoclassical
A National Heritage Site, the White House located in Washington D.C. has been the home and workplace of every President of the United States since John Adams in 1800. The nearly 55,000 sq.ft. building was constructed in 1792. James Hoban designed this neoclassical structure using Aquia Creek sandstone painted white. During the war of 1812, in 1814 the mansion was set ablaze by the British Army. This destroyed much of the interior and charred much of the exterior. It is rumored to have been painted white to hide the extent of the burn damage on the exterior, thus giving it the name "The White House", however, there is no proof of this. Reconstruction began immediately, with President James Monroe living in the partially reconstructed Executive Residence in 1817.
Throughout the history of the White House there has been additions, renovations and expansions. President Theodore Roosevelt had all work offices relocated in 1901 to the newly constructed West Wing. This is where the Oval Office and offices of the President are today. The modern day White House complex includes the Executive Residence, which is 6 floors (the Ground Floor, State Floor, Second Floor, and Third Floor as well as a 2 story basement), the West Wing, East Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building that houses the President's staff and the Vice President, and the Blair House as a guest residence.
Although James Hoban won the design competition for the honor of designing the White House, one of the nine proposals submitted was anonymously submitted by Thomas Jefferson himself. With classical inspiration sources, especially in Palladian architecture, Hoban's design is also clearly influenced by the upper floors of Leinster House in Dublin. The Leinster House in Dublin is said to be the White House's twin.
Construction of the White House was built with the help of many European artists and immigrant workers, as well as enslaved African Americans. Before 1901 it was known by several names including the President's Palace, the President's House and the Executive Mansion. Upon Franklin D. Roosevelt's arrival in 1933 it became one of the first wheelchair friendly government buildings in D.C.
Some fun facts? The first family gets a bill for their food, groceries, toiletries, dry cleaning etc. at the end of each month. This is taken out of the president's annual salary. Benjamin Harrison's family was too afraid of touching the light switches in 1891 when the White House got electricity, so they left the lights on throughout the night. The White House has housed snakes, alligators, bear cubs, lion cubs, bobcats, raccoons, dogs (of course), and more! Weirdest of all, Winston Churchill refused to stay in the Lincoln room again after having claimed to see the ghost of Abraham Lincoln near the fireplace while he was getting out of that bath. Our favorite fun fact of all, Zolatone's Lluminations can be seen in the White House Press Room! Look for that beautiful shimmering white next time you watch a press briefing.
3. Washington National Cathedral
Location - Washington, DC
Architects - George Frederick Bodley, Henry Vaughan and Philip H. Frohman
Style - Gothic Revival
Although a review of the Washington National Cathedral says "The music was the worst thing I heard, and the wine was crap", it is rated #3 in America's Most Favorite Architecture. One look at this neo-Gothic cathedral and it's easy to see why it's so high on the list. Located in Washington D.C. and built in 1907, the Washington National Cathedral is the second largest cathedral in the United States and the fourth tallest structure in D.C. In 1977 the west rose window was dedicated in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II and the 39th President, Jimmy Carter.
George Frederick Bodley, the leading Anglican church architect from Britain was chosen as the original head architect on this project, and it's easy to see the European Gothic influence throughout the design. The pulpit is carved out of stones from Canterbury Cathedral, stone was provided for the bishop's formal seat from Glastonbury Abbey, the high altar is made from stone quarried at Solomon's Quarry near Jerusalem, and stones directly in front of the altar are from the Chapel of Moses on Mount Sinai to represent the Ten Commandments.
The long narrow mass is formed by a nine-bay nave with wide side aisles and a five-bay chancel that is intersected by a six-bay transept. There are over 200 stained glass windows in the Washington National Cathedral, some spurring controversy. The most familiar of the stained glass windows may be the Space Window marking mankind's landing on the moon.
Fun fact - the cathedral's basement was intentionally flooded during the Cuban missile crisis in hopes of providing emergency drinking water in the event of a nuclear war.
4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Location - Washington, DC
Architects - John Russell Pope
Style - Neoclassical
This neoclassical structure is dedicated to the third President of the United Sates, Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was one of the most important of the American Founding Fathers as the main drafter and writer of the Declaration of Independence (you know, that really important document Nicolas Cage steals in National Treasure..). He was also governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the American minister to King Louis XVI of France, and the first U.S. Secretary of State under America's first President George Washington, the second Vice President under John Adams, AND the founder of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Thomas Jefferson has quite the resume.
Designed by John Russell Pope, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is on the Tidal Basin off of the Washington Channel of the Potomac River in Washington D.C., directly south of the White House. A bronze statue of Jefferson was added to the memorial in 1947. Pope originally offered up 4 different designs on 4 different sites. The Tidal Basin site was chosen for its prominence and it completed the McMillan Commission's "four-point plan". The original design for the Jefferson Memorial was a pantheon-like structure on a square platform flanked by two smaller, rectangular buildings.
By the time construction started in 1938 (against design approval and with plenty of opposition) Pope had already died, and Daniel P. Higgins and Otto R. Eggers took over construction of the memorial, modifying the design at the request of the Commission of Fine Arts. Open to the elements, the memorial consists of circular marble steps, a circular colonnade of Ionic order columns, a shallow dome and a portico. The triangular pediment features a depiction of the five members of the drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence submitting their report to congress, sculpted by Adolph Alexander Weinman. The design of the memorial makes references, of course, to the roman Pantheon as well as Jefferson's design for the Rotunda at the University of Virginia.
Although Jefferson is said to be watching over the White House with the placement of the memorial and statue, he's actually looking over his #1 rival, Alexander Hamilton. The first Secretary of the Treasury was one of Jefferson's biggest rivals, and it's no coincidence that Jefferson was made to look in the direction of his statue.
5. Golden Gate Bridge
Location - San Francisco, CA
Architects - Irving F Morrow and Gertrude C. Morrow
Style - Art Deco
Number 5 on the list of America's Favorite Architecture is vastly different from the first 4. The biggest difference between #5 and the previous 4 structures we've looked at is pretty clear: this one is a bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is known worldwide and is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of the United States, bringing in tourists every year to marvel at the international orange beauty in the bay.
This suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate strait channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, links San Francisco to Marin County and is the most photographed bridge in the world. Until 1964 it was the longest suspension bridge main span in the world, it is now #14, with the #1 longest suspension bridge main span belonging to Japan's Akashi Kaikyō Bridge.
The conception and construction of the Golden Gate Bridge was not without controversy. The Department of War was concerned a bridge across the channel would interfere with ship traffic, the Navy feared of a ship collision or of a sabotage to the bridge that could easily block the entrance to one of its main harbors in the bay. The Southern Pacific Railroad opposed the bridge as fierce competition to its ferry fleet, which ultimately lead to a mass boycott of the ferry service.
The Golden Gate Bridge is known for it's orange vermilion hue called international orange, but the Navy originally proposed a yellow and black striped design to help with visibility in the foggy bay as they feared a collision. The color is inspired by the original red primer the steel beams had been coated in at the factory. The color was highly pleasing as well as unusual, would be highly visible in the fog and also complemented the bridge's natural surroundings. The bridge is maintained by a team of 38 painters and uses between 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of paint yearly.
Unfortunately the Golden Gate is also known for the lives that are lost on it. The bridge is the second most used suicide site / suicide bridge in the world (second to the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge). After around an estimated 1,500 deaths, construction of new suicide barriers have begun to be installed as of April 2017. This new construction will take around 4 years and cost over $200 million. A small price to pay to save lives.
Fun fact - for the bridge's 50th anniversary celebration on May 24, 1987 the bridge was closed to traffic for celebration. An expected maximum of 50,000 people were to attend the celebration, but instead 800,000 people showed up and filled the bridge. The bridge responded visibly to the large load with a reported deflection of its roadway of almost 10 feet at the mid span, accentuated with 17 mph winds blowing across the bay.
145 More Favorite Pieces Of American Architecture
There's 145 more of America's Favorite Pieces of Architecture as determined by the AIA. What's your favorite piece of American architecture? Check back in as we assemble The Ultimate Road Trip For American Architecture!