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Hart Senate Office Building

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1973–1982, John Carl Warnecke and Associates. Second and C streets NE

The cost of the Hart Building ($137.7 million), which provides offices for fifty senators, was more than that of the East Building of the National Gallery, yet the architectural benefits to Washington are not comparable. The Hart Building is the first of Capitol Hill's legislative office buildings to be designed in the modern language of architecture without any historicizing detail, yet the architect did not create from that idiom a memorable building that befits the importance of its function or location.

Fortunately, it is not apparent from the Hart Building's main facade on Constitution Avenue that it encompasses more than one million square feet of interior space; only fifteen bays (273 feet) of the massive building front on the street. A major concern for energy-efficient design is reflected on all of the similar nine-story facades. Each facade is articulated by separate, three-dimensional gridded frames of Vermont marble that project from and frame each of the tall, rectangular windows. The frames function as brises-soleil, partially shading the windows of dark-tinted solar glass. Proportions of the windows and their regular alternating rhythm with the gridded frames link the Hart Building to the neighboring Dirksen Building behind which its vast bulk extends.

Below-grade entry into the Hart Building is unmarked by any special architectural features, less impressive than many commercial office buildings. Senators' offices, however, retain the 16-foot heights of the earlier legislative office buildings, but double-stacked staff offices in adjoining suites have 8-foot ceilings. To increase energy efficiency, the focus of the offices and circulation spaces is inward onto the central skylit atrium dominated by Alexander Calder's somewhat ponderous Mountain and Clouds, installed in 1986.

Writing Credits

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee


What's Nearby


Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Hart Senate Office Building", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 137-138.

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