Of Plates, Ornaments, Nick Nacks, &c.

"Susan is one of the most talented legislative directors on Capitol Hill and a very hard worker," Wicker said. "Of course, none of us knew she was competing in the pageant, but we were not surprised by her success."

I've been obsessed with the mechanisms through which symbolic buildings become possible- the way that we accept the specific, idiosyncratic details of a particular building into our lives as a thing that is imbued with the iconic power to represent abstract ideas. Why do we let the Capitol stand for American democracy? Why a dome and not a spire, a column, a pyramid?

Propaganda, basically.

While Washington, DC was still mostly a mix of forest and swamp and before the Capitol was even completed, maps of the fully developed city were being printed in the major cities of America and Europe replete with views of the Capitol-to-be. These multiplying images of the burgeoning capital & Capitol served to develop a certain understanding of the dome as symbol for the nation. And this was before the much larger, current dome was even built.

The dome is now a ubiquitous image in the United States as it can be found on most of our state capitols. As the second dome ever built in the US (the first was the MA Statehouse) and the first to be of significant scale, the US Capitol became a symbolic stub. Sufficient volume of printed matter depicting the Capitol helped satisfy a cultural need for a representative symbol of the new nation. These flat representations of the Capitol allowed it to ascend from a thing (building) to a representative thing (building that stands for America). But it wasn't until the typology of the US Capitol was replicated in numerous state capitols that its basic form was catapulted from a representative thing into a symbol and thus it gained the ability to survive much more significant physical alterations without losing its symbolic recognition. In other words, the state capitols' participation in wide-building-with-dome-cap-ness promoted their model, the US Capitol, to a sort of prototype status retroactively. This, we must accept, is the power of the image economy.

Lessons learned:

Step 1: produce as many 2d representations of your building as possible. Step 2: convince other people that your building is actually a prototype that they should copy blatantly. Step 3: world domination.

Which one is your Capitol?