AKA: Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Warnecke, John Carl, and Associates, Architects (firm); John Carl Warnecke Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1974-1982

9 stories, total floor area: 1,271,030 sq. ft.

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Constitution Avenue
Washington, DC 20002

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Constitution Avenue, between 1st and 2nd Streets, NE

Following a limited competition involving 16 architectural offices, George M. White (1920-2011), Architect of the US Capitol, selected the San Francisco firm of John Carl Warnecke & Associates to receive this prestigious governemntal commission. At the time, Warnecke and Associates was one of the largest (measured by client billings) in the country, with offices in New York and other East Coast locations. White chose Warnecke in 1973, and the Senate Committee on Public Works assented to it on 08/08/1974. Named for Michigan Democratic Senator Philip Hart (1912-1976), Warnecke's nine-story office building, serves US Senators and their staffs, and was erected around a 100-foot high atrium, into which one of Alexander Calder's last monumental sculptures, "Mountains and Clouds," was placed. John Carl Warnecke (1919-2010), though born in the West, spent much of his career working in New York. He became an East Coast insider with many political connections, and probably used these to secure this commission. The official site for the US Senate described the building: "Rather than adopt the neo-classical style of the first two office building [sic], the architect gave the Hart Building a more distinctly contemporary appearance, although with a marble façade in keeping with its surrounding [sic]. The architects sought to design a flexible, energy-efficient building that would accommodate both the expanded staff and the new technology of the modern Senate. The building’s design also deliberately spared the adjacent Sewall-Belmont house, a historic structure that serves as headquarters for the National Woman’s Party and a museum for the woman suffrage movement. As construction proceeded, however, rapid inflation in the 1970s multiplied costs and caused several modifications of the original plan, most notably the elimination of a rooftop restaurant and a gymnasium." Due to construction setbacks, the Hart Building was not occupied until 11/1982.

The US Senate web site noted of the Hart Building: "The nine-story structure provides offices for fifty senators, as well as for three committees and several subcommittees. Two-story duplex suites allow a senator’s entire office staff to work in connecting rooms. Where solid walls limited the arrangement of office space in the two older buildings, movable partitions permit reconfiguration of offices in the Hart Building to meet changing needs. Designed for modern telecommunications, removable floor panels permit the laying of telephone lines and computer cables, further aiding the rearrangement of offices as computers rapidly alter staff functions. On the building’s roof, microwave satellite dishes expand senators’ communication links with the news media in their home states. The large Central Hearing Facility on the second floor of the Hart Building was designed for high-interest events attracting crowds that could not be accommodated in the regular hearing rooms. The facility offered more seating, better acoustics, and movable side panes where television cameras could operate without distracting the participants. Behind the dais where committee members sit, the Senate seal is affixed to a white and gray marble wall, which contrasts with the wood-paneled side walls. The room has become familiar to television viewers as the site of numerous Senate investigations and confirmation hearings." (See "Senate Hart Office Building,"Accessed 09/18/2013.)

PCAD id: 18695