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American Institute of Building Design (AIBD)

At least your project isn't a big uninspiring stump [Midweek Vibe]

Published about 2 months ago • 1 min read

On this day in 1885, the world’s tallest obelisk was dedicated.

This day had been a long time coming–surprisingly so, considering that a monument dedicated to the first US president seems like a no-brainer, and a desire for one certainly had a lengthy history.

Calls for such a monument dated to the late eighteenth century and revved up after Washington’s death in 1799. But it took until the mid-1830s for a competition to be launched.

Robert Mills, who made a career out of big public buildings in places like Washington, was named the winner. As a designer, he mostly favored the Greek style (as you can see from this in Charleston) and had some experience with monuments (as you can see from this in Baltimore) and also had a thing for Egypt (as you will see in a moment).

Mills’ initial design proposed an Egyptian obelisk, taller than any the Egyptians ever built, that would be surrounded by a Classical colonnade surmounted by a quadriga, with Washington taking the reins in this Roman equestrian type.

But the late 1830s were not a good time to build fancy monuments, what with the giant Panic and Depression and everything. In 1848, the cornerstone was finally laid, but then there were all sorts of political troubles getting in the way of architectural projects.

Construction was suspended in 1854 after the monument reached a height of 150 feet. In addition to the war breaking out, there were more financial problems and political shenanigans, and the project just pooped out until well after the Civil War.

In 1876, construction finally got going in earnest again, and Mills’ Roman colonnade was dropped, the top of the obelisk made more pointy, and the monument finished with the topping-out at the ultimate height of just under 554 feet.

It was the tallest structure in the universe until the opening of the Eiffel Tower (no contest, mes amis: it’s 508 feet taller) in the following year.

Our point is that great works take time. While it's natural to want to see your greatest projects come to fruition within your lifetime, remember that for over two decades, visitors to the capital city saw not a monument but a big, uninspiring stump, and Mills died in 1855, wondering if it would never be finished.

Be ready to adapt your plans according to changing circumstances. This flexibility can help ensure the success of your projects.

Cultivate a strong team that shares your vision. Make sure your ideas and intentions are clearly documented. This will ensure that your project continues in the right direction, in the event you're not there to oversee it.

The true value of architectural works lies not just in their completion, but in the inspiration they provide and the legacy they leave behind. So, keep dreaming, keep designing, and remember that your work can make an impact far beyond your own lifetime.

-The A-Team

American Institute of Building Design (AIBD)

The American Institute of Building Design (AIBD) is a professional association that promotes the highest standards of excellence in residential building design. AIBD offers a variety of resources to its members, including continuing education, networking opportunities, and marketing assistance. AIBD is a valuable resource for anyone interested in a career in residential building design. If you want to improve your skills, network with other professionals, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends, AIBD is the perfect organization for you.

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