Often viewed as backdrops for bureaucrats instead of soaring architectural achievements, federal buildings aren't always celebrated for good design. But exceptions can be found, especially within the federal bench, argue the authors of Courthouse of the Second Circuit: Their Architecture, History, and Stories. A profile of the buildings where one of the nation's most influential courts operates, the book explores the eclectic styles found within the three-state circuit, from a modest courthouse/post office in Rutland, Vermont, to the striking, curvaceous, glass-sheathed Robert H. Jackson Courthouse in Buffalo, New York, built in 2011 and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox.
"Architecture evolved as the need evolved," says Michael P. Zweig, a co-author, director of the Federal Bar Foundation and a partner at Loeb & Loeb. "This book really shows the evolution of styles, from Romanesque revival buildings to the work of individual architects that put their own stamp on these massive edifices."
In addition to a rich history of classic architecture, such as the Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse in New Haven, Connecticut, a temple set within the city's main square, and the Cass Gilbert-designed Thurgood Marshall Courthouse rising above lower Manhattan, the three-state circuit, covering New York, Connecticut and Vermont, has also benefitted from federal programs that promoted modern design. The Design Excellence Program championed by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who once said "public architecture is the bone and muscle of democracy," has helped expand and update the circuit's legacy of design.
"Most people think of federal buildings as dreary edifices," says co-author Marjorie Press Lindblom, a retired partner at Kirkland & Ellis, "but the modern ones aren't like that at all, they're truly interesting buildings."
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