Today, for the purposes of my arcane webcomic project Alien President, I had to do a couple of drawings of the United States Capitol building. It was a pain in the neck trying to get all that neoclassical geometry right.
I ended up asking myself "Okay, so I'm complaining about having to draw the Capitol. Would I rather be drawing the New Palace of Westminster?"
My sense of patriotism said "Yes", but my pragmatic side said "No" - Westminster Palace is even more geometrically confusing than the Washington DC Capitol. But this little exchange led onto another question: "Which is the cooler building?"
Of course, I'm not trying to compare the governments that lurk inside the buildings. I'm trying to compare the buildings themselves. So, which is better? Naturally, I concluded that the New Palace of Westminster is much cooler than the United States Capitol, for four very important reasons:
(Apologies to any Americans who might have stumbled across this blog, by the way. I'm just saying it like it is.)
Reason the first: a sense of geographical and historical context. The Houses of Parliament (as you should know by now) are situated on a plot of land in London bordered by the river Thames on one side, and roads on another two. The building is asymetrical, designed to fit the specific shape of its site, and it even incorporates the one surviving chunk of the previous Palace, the rest of which burnt to the ground in the first half of the 19th Century. Said chunk is at a funny angle to the rest of the edifice, but that didn't stop the architects using it. The Palace's concessions to its surroundings and to its past help it to feel organically rooted to its spot: a building not just in London, but for and of London. The Capitol, by comparison, is a rather generic shape that could be uprooted, plonked down again almost anywhere else on the planet, and still make just as much sense. Which is boring.
Reason the second: colour. Now don't get me wrong, I do like the colour white, but I think it's deeply inappropriate for a government building. The implications of purity, innocence and whatnot are totally misleading. Everyone knows that politicians are lying scumbags (well, a lot of them anyway), as demonstrated by the recent Expenses Scandal. Westminster's brown exterior gives a much more honest impression about the dodgy occupants, compared to the Capitol's somewhat hypocritical whiteness.
Reason the third: the royal connection. Parliament has ceremonial features relating to the fact that it gets officially reopened every year by the Queen. The Capitol doesn't. Long live the Queen.
Reason the fourth (and perhaps the most important): that clock. By far the biggest blunder made by the architects of the US Capitol is that they forgot to include a clocktower. Whereas, the New Palace of Westminster is defined in the public eye by its enormous clock, as much as by the scandalous politicians underneath it. Even without the other three points, the clocktower alone is enough to make the Houses of Parliament the cooler of the two structures, hands down. Who doesn't like a good clock?
QED. Just thought I'd share those helpful insights with you. B]
- The Colclough