What style of architecture does the Washington Monument belong to?

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By Laurie Baratti

The Iconic Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is an iconic structure that stands in the heart of Washington D.C. as a symbol of the nation’s founding father and first president, George Washington. Standing at 555 feet tall, the monument is the tallest structure in the city and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States.

A Brief History of the Washington Monument

The idea for the Washington Monument was first proposed in 1783 by the Continental Congress, but it was not until 1833 that the Washington National Monument Society was formed to oversee the construction of the monument. In 1848, construction began on the monument, which was designed by architect Robert Mills. However, due to various setbacks, including a lack of funding and the Civil War, the monument was not completed until 1884.

The Competition for the Monument’s Design

In 1836, the Washington National Monument Society launched a competition to design the monument. The competition was open to both amateur and professional architects, and the winning design was selected by a panel of judges. The winning design was submitted by Robert Mills, who was a prominent architect in the mid-19th century.

The Style of Architecture in the Mid-19th Century

The mid-19th century was a time of great architectural innovation and experimentation in the United States. Architects of this period were heavily influenced by the neoclassical style, which drew inspiration from the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. This style was characterized by a focus on symmetry, proportion, and the use of classical elements such as columns, pediments, and domes.

The Influence of Classical Architecture in the Monument

The Washington Monument was heavily influenced by classical architecture. The monument’s design features a series of circular and rectangular elements that are reminiscent of classical temples and monuments. The use of symmetry and proportion is also evident in the monument’s design, which is meant to convey a sense of order and balance.

The Use of Marble in the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is constructed primarily of marble, which was a popular building material in the mid-19th century. Marble was highly valued for its durability, as well as its aesthetic qualities, such as its smooth texture and ability to be carved and shaped into intricate designs. The use of marble in the Washington Monument was a testament to the monument’s importance and significance as a national symbol.

The Obelisk Form in Architecture

The Washington Monument is designed in the form of an obelisk, which is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument that is topped with a pyramid shape. The obelisk is a design that has been used in architecture for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Egypt. In the mid-19th century, the obelisk form was popularized in the United States as a symbol of national pride and achievement.

Comparing the Washington Monument to Other Obelisks

The Washington Monument is one of the most well-known obelisks in the world, but it is not the only one. Other famous obelisks include the Cleopatra’s Needle in New York City, the Luxor Obelisk in Paris, and the Obelisco de Buenos Aires in Argentina. Although each of these obelisks is unique in its own way, they all share a common form and a sense of grandeur and monumentality.

The Role of the Washington Monument in American Architecture

The Washington Monument is an important symbol of American architecture. It represents the country’s history, ideals, and values, and serves as a reminder of the contributions of its founding fathers. The monument has also had a significant influence on American architecture, inspiring countless other monuments and buildings across the country.

The Monument’s Restoration and Preservation Efforts

Over the years, the Washington Monument has undergone a number of restoration and preservation efforts. In 2011, the monument was closed to the public due to damage sustained during an earthquake. After a years-long restoration project, the monument reopened to the public in 2019, with new safety features and improved accessibility.

Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is an enduring symbol of American history and architecture. Its design, construction, and significance have inspired generations of architects and citizens, and it continues to be one of the most visited and beloved landmarks in the United States. As the country continues to evolve and grow, the Washington Monument will remain a constant reminder of America’s past, present, and future.

References and Further Reading

  • National Park Service. (n.d.). Washington Monument Restoration. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/wamo/learn/aboutus/washington-monument-restoration.htm
  • National Park Service. (n.d.). The Washington Monument. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm
  • Rosenwasser, D. (2011). The Washington Monument: A Technical History and Preservation Guide. Washington, DC: National Park Service.
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Laurie Baratti

Laurie Baratti, a renowned San Diego journalist, has contributed to respected publications like TravelAge West, SPACE, Modern Home + Living, Montage, and Sandals Life. She's a passionate travel writer, constantly exploring beyond California. Besides her writing, Laurie is an avid equestrian and dedicated pet owner. She's a strong advocate for the Oxford comma, appreciating the richness of language.

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