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Organization of American States Building

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Pan American Union, International Union of the American Republics
1908–1910, Albert Kelsey and Paul Philippe Cret. 1948 annex, Harbeson, Hough, Livingston, and Larson. 17th St. and Constitution Ave. NW
  • Organization of American States Building (Pan American Union, International Union of the American Republics)
  • Organization of American States Building (Pan American Union, International Union of the American Republics)
  • Organization of American States Building (Pan American Union, International Union of the American Republics)
  • Organization of American States Building (Pan American Union, International Union of the American Republics)
  • Organization of American States Building (Pan American Union, International Union of the American Republics)

The most exotic of all the monumental buildings in Washington's central core is Albert Kelsey and Paul Philippe Cret's Organization of American States Building. The architects drew from traditions of both North and South America in providing a headquarters for the organization, which promotes cooperation among Central and South American countries and the United States.

The triple-arched entrance of the principal facade on 17th Street forms an arcade flanked by huge pylons and two-story pavilions. One of two sculptural groups, each before a pylon, illustrates North America with a female figure and child. It was executed by Gutzon Borglum. On the south, a similar group, by Isidor Konti, symbolizes South America. Above each statue, bas-relief panels illustrate, respectively, George Washington, Simón Bolívar, and José de San Martín. At the cornice lines of the pylons are an eagle, symbol of America, and a condor, associated with the Andes. Mayan motifs line the base of the pilasters and the top of the parapet and adorn two copper lamps at the entrance. A red tile roof and a classical balustrade crown the building.

The interior similarly incorporates cultural details drawn from Aztec, Incan, Mayan, and European art, all set in the context of spacious halls, patios, exhibition rooms, and the Hall of the Americas. The luxuriousness of the decorative details increases on approaching the interior tropical courtyard.

The more distinctively South American Annex, also designed by Kelsey and Cret, resembles a Spanish villa. Decorative elements drawn directly from Mexican models are seen in the tilework of the pool that is in the garden connecting the main building and the annex. Terracotta is also seen in large urns, the walls of the loggia, and in the building's polychromatic cornice and shield. The marble-clad administration building, located between 18th and 19th streets, was the last structure completed in this group. Constructed in 1948 after designs by Harbeson, Hough, Livingston, and Larson, it has a slightly bowed wall to emphasize the entrance and represents the firm's long association with classicism.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee
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Data

Timeline

  • 1908

    Built
  • 1948

    Annex built

What's Nearby

Citation

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Organization of American States Building", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DC-01-FB06.

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 209-210.

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