Under the Dome
Politics, Crisis, and Architecture at the United States Capitol
The domed US Capitol Building is recognized around the world as America's most iconic symbol, the forum for representative democracy, and the physical stage for the transfer of executive power. As the United States grew in size and complexity, the Capitol was built, rebuilt, enlarged, and extended many times under the direction of the few who have served as Architect of the Capitol. This official heads the agency dedicated to preserving and upgrading this magnificent structure, and all the buildings and grounds of Capitol Hill.
In Under the Dome, Alan Hantman, the Architect of the Capitol from 1997 to 2007, provides a personal account of how the Capitol works as a physical space; who runs it, how and why decisions are made about the security of the Capitol and the people who work there, and how politicians think about the Capitol Building. He also recounts security threats to the Capitol during his tenure–including the 1998 shooting murder of two police officers and the Capitol evacuation on 9/11 as a hijacked airplane approached–that underscore one of his greatest challenges as Architect. The tension between securing the Capitol and opening it to the public drove the design and construction under his direction of the Capitol Visitor Center, the largest expansion of the Capitol in its history, increasing its size by 70%.
About the Authors
"My work with Alan Hantman came at a pivotal point in the management of the United States Capitol. The murders of [two Capitol Police officers] in 1998 changed the freedom of movement in and around the Capitol forever. The result was approval . . . to construct a safe, secure entrance to the Capitol, which became known as the Capitol Visitor Center. Under the Dome is an exemplary display of the birth, growth, and future of these iconic grounds and buildings."—Harry M. Reid Jr., former Senate Majority Leader
"Alan Hantman's informative blend of history, architecture, politics, and personalities paints a thoroughly captivating story of the Capitol and the often competing forces that have and continue to shape the People's House. His encyclopedic knowledge of the building's evolution over two centuries combines with his personal experience addressing the challenges of our time to provide a unique and highly readable story of our most beloved symbol of democracy."—John Fowler, former executive director, President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
"This is the absorbing firsthand history of the 10th Architect of the Capitol's term, which was forged in actual attacks on America's 'city on a hill.' Under the Dome weaves together history, politics, and a description of the delicate balance that Hantman helped craft between security and accessibility that ensured freedom of legislative operations, preserved the Capitol's architectural integrity, and protected against threats to the People's House that disturbingly continue to grow."—Terrance W. Gainer, former chief of the US Capitol Police, 38th Senate Sergeant at Arms, member of Task Force 1-6 Capitol Security Review, Vietnam combat veteran
"America's 'front door to democracy' is wide open today thanks to the passion and persistence of many champions during the challenging and twisting course navigated to realize the construction of the Capitol Visitor Center. Having been part of this journey, I found that Alan Hantman's account in Under the Dome is both accurate and refreshingly transparent as he chronicles his stewardship of the Capitol and this historic expansion."—Rebecca W. Rimel, former president, The Pew Charitable Trusts
"Hantman's insider understanding reveals how America balanced security and the imperative of free public access to America's 'temple of democracy,' our Capitol, through the tumultuous times of the 1998 shooting of two Capitol Police officers, the 9/11 and anthrax attacks, and finally the building of the Capitol Visitor Center, which now provides a safe and welcoming entry to this sacred space."—Jane Louise Campbell, president and CEO, US Capitol Historical Society
"I witnessed the challenging path of politics and critics the 10th Architect of the Capitol navigated to design and build an addition that has transformed the Capitol from a building once hostile to visitors into a stately center of learning and comfort, welcoming millions each year. Under the Dome faithfully documents the largest expansion of the Capitol in its history, and it does so in an accessible and entertaining way."—John Mica, former US Representative
"Under the Dome is based on the unique perspective of a professional who served our nation well. It makes evident why public service is so important while illustrating the challenges public servants face in striving to accomplish major initiatives at the heart of our government."—Jeff Trandahl, former clerk, United States House of Representatives
"At its dedication ceremony, I was honored to bless those who invested years of their lives under difficult circumstances to bring the multilayered dream of the Capitol Visitor Center to fruition. The crafted architecture described in Under the Dome opened new dimensions of freedom and accessibility to the People's House for generations to come."—Daniel P. Coughlin, former chaplain, US House of Representatives
"I witnessed firsthand Hantman's talent as an architect and committed historic preservationist when he served as the 10th Architect of the Capitol and member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Under the Dome tells the incredible story of how he applied these talents to the design and construction of the largest expansion of the Capitol in its history. This is compelling reading for anyone who has ever visited, or wanted to visit, our nation's Capitol."—Reid J. Nelson, Washington, DC
|Georgetown University Press|
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