Designed by architect Victor Lundy, the Tax Court is an outstanding example of federal architecture of its time, and the most prominent public work of its architect’s notable career. It used the most advanced structural engineering to achieve an expressive purpose, and its structural daring is without precedent in federal architecture.
Conceived as a monolithic block separated into its constituent functional units, the building’s tour-de-force is its massive granite courtroom block poised as if weightless above a fully glazed entry. The virtuoso suspension is accomplished through the use of steel post-tensioning cables concealed in reinforced concrete shear walls and structural bridges, invisibly connecting to six supporting columns. The cabling system creates an equal balance between forces of tension and compression to stabilize the building. The interior of the building mirrors the clarity of its exterior design and offers a rich array of modern construction materials.
The Courthouse was one of four buildings directly inspired by and constructed in the first years following a Kennedy-era initiative to improve the design of the country’s federal buildings. Under Kennedy’s Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, the federal government moved away from the “cautious” Modernism that had characterized public buildings of the postwar era and committed itself to using renowned and respected architects to create new and creative public buildings.
DC Inventory: June 26, 2008
National Register: August 26, 2008