Set back from Independence Avenue and approached by a stark concrete plaza, the Hubert H. Humphrey Building seems to be a modern boxlike sculpture poised on a low glass-and-concrete pedestal. The second of Marcel Breuer's two federal government buildings in the capital (the other is the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development [see SW10]), this precisely articulated office building stands just above the freeway tunnel and houses its exhaust ducts as well as its own mechanical equipment shaft.
The most recent of the federal buildings that line Independence Avenue and form a backdrop for the south side of the Mall, the Humphrey Building was intended as the permanent headquarters of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (formerly Health, Education, and Welfare). Its location just to the west of the Bartholdi Fountain Park at the foot of Capitol Hill serves as a symbolic reminder of Senator Humphrey's long association with the Capitol and with social legislation.
Interest in the building derives from the arrangement of precast concrete panels fitted into the poured concrete frame. The precast panels alternate between double and single window panes, with each window placed in a deep recess with wide horizontal sun screens forming pitched hoods over each panel. A less austere aspect can be found at the concrete corners of the building, where the marks of the wooden forms are visible.