Last week I had the pleasure of setting up an exclusive inside look at the Department of Justice for the ICAA. It definitely did not disappoint and now I get to take all of you inside as well!
Passing along the national mall one sees massive classical buildings which house different branches of our government but do you ever wonder what they look like inside?
Inside the Department of Justice, known as the Robert F Kennedy Building, one is surprised to find an amazing art deco interior behind a rather staid classical facade dating to 1934. Some of the aluminum details on the exterior however give hints at what is to come.
Our tour started on the 3rd floor elevator vestibule. This is really the main level where the important offices are located as well as the law library used by the large staff of lawyers.
The multi-colored aluminum-leafed barrel-vaulted ceiling tops an astounding streamlined classical room filled with art. 12 panels in the frieze by Henry Kreis from 1933 depict the 12 regions of the country.
One end of the hall has limestone statues by C. Paul Jennewein and Roger Morigi depicting the 4 elements (earth, air, water, and fire).
Even the aluminum elevator doors are works of art.
Not to mention the coordinating radiator cover!
The wood paneled library features 20 unusual murals depicting the 'Search for Truth' in the frieze by Maurice Sterne which weren't completed until 1941.
My favorite thing in the library were the 2 aluminum lamps flanking the reference desk.
The 4 seasons are depicted on the sides of the lamp - this sheaf of white and sickle for autumn.
Many of the columns and pilasters feature this superb marquetry woodwork.
Librarian offices in the rear on a metal mezzanine show the namesake of the building, Robert F Kennedy. The original painting decorates the hallway outside of the Attorney General's office.
Here is the original painting from 1975 by Aaron Shikler.
The hallways are simpler but still pack a lot of style.
The aluminum light fixtures throughout the building are all different and each one a work of art.
Aluminum leafed medallions are above each limestone door surround.
Even the doors are beautiful!
The ends of the hallways have the important office suites of the Attorney and assistant Attorney Generals.
The typical offices are quite large with beautiful plaster mouldings (with rather ugly curtains) and tall ceilings important with the extreme summer heat of Washington.
Heading downstairs to themain level lets you appreciate the details found in the murals.
Like these chickens!
The vestibule on the main piano nobile level leads into the Great Hall and features the same stunning detail found throughout.
The aluminum guardrails feature the Lotus blossom.
One of many murals even featured architects at work so I had to take a quick snapshot.
Four large cast aluminum urns on limestone plinths by C. Paul Jennewein depict Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice.
I just love these 30s light fixtures and the stepped crown moulding.
The most famous room in the building is the Great Hall where press conferences are held.
Flanking each side of the stage are enormous 12 1/2 feet tall cast aluminum statues depicting The Spirit of Justice and The Majesty of Law also by C. Paul Jennewein.
This should look familiar to most people!
Oddly enough lining the Great Hall are bank teller windows. Originally employees were paid in cash on a weekly basis. Each Friday afternoon they could gather their weekly pay on the way out the door.
I love the stone radiator covers which look like classical Roman furniture.
The hallway walls are clad in limestone and the ceilings feature beautiful polychrome and aluminum decoration; And lots of trash cans for whatever reason!
The main stair leads down to the ground level; more lotus blossoms on the guardrail.
18 panels surround the stairs by the artist Boardman Robinson and depict the great codifiers of the law.
These large murals are on canvas and cover over 1,025SF of wall space. In 1935 he was paid $20,000 for these.
The marvelous detailing continues in the vestibule with these lotus leaf grilles hiding the radiators.
My favorite 'room' of the building however is probably the main central courtyard.
Large cherry trees were sadly removed a few years ago because they were causing damage to the parking garage below -but it's still a marvelous space.
The courtyard was little used until the 1960s when Robert Kennedy had lawn furniture installed; Aluminum naturally.
38 aluminum light fixtures surround the courtyard as well flank as the exterior entrances and stand 7 1/2 feet tall!
I can't stress how large this interior space is; check out the scale of our tour group above for reference.
Unfortunately one of the most fun details of the building isn't visible from the ground; The roof tiles are multicolored terra cotta and include 1,100 polychromed antifixae which act as snowguards. This one above is on view in the library which was removed and replaced during a recent renovation.
The original aluminum sash windows are a beautiful detail.
If you're in the DC area please make sure to check out our events page on our ICAA website HERE.