On most weekends, when I am here in DC, I always try to go for a bike ride around the city if the weather is pleasant. DC is the perfect place for riding and it is really the best way to see the city. The streets are relatively flat and the city has created a huge network of bike lanes that make getting around pretty easy.
Its amazing what you are able to discover when you are either walking or biking. You miss so much when you’re in the car and all of the architecture and extraordinary monuments here just seem to whiz by.
Today, during my ride I headed down to Federal Triangle, which probably has the highest concentration of Classical Revival buildings in DC. One of my favorite buildings is the Andrew Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue. Designed by San Francisco architect, Arthur Brown, Jr, the massive complex was originally named the Departmental Auditorium, and was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935.
The centerpiece of the building consists of a tripartite design with a triumphant temple in the center with colossal, doric columns that rise over 62 feet. The entire building is richly decorated with sculptures, a rusticated base and voussoirs above the lower door and window openings. Above every other lower opening are a series of carved keystones that are decorated with highly detailed carved masks, which are one of my favorite architectural devices in classical architecture.
As I walked along the thousand foot long facade facing Constitution I took photos of a small handful of the carved masks and noted that each one is unique. At first glance many of them look the same. But upon closer inspection the variations of each mask became very apparent. I could have easily spent all afternoon photographing all of the amazing details. Sadly, they don’t build them like they used to!