National Building Museum

Charles Atherton Memorial Lecture

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Civic Art:  A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts


The design of the nation’s capital has evolved through a complex interaction of aesthetics and ideals, politics, and personalities. From an incomplete composition of brick buildings and informal gardens into an ordered landscape of white classical temples, the image of Washington, D.C. was transformed by visionary planning and implementation. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts was created by Congress in 1910 as an independent design review agency to guide the ongoing work of representing national ideals in the design of the capital city. The establishment of this seven-member, presidentially appointed commission on design can be traced to the Senate Park Commission of 1901, whose grand plan focused on the Mall as the symbolic core of the capital—and the nation—and proposed that it be a formal, public space framed by monumental architecture to express the political aspirations of the American democracy.
Secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, Thomas Luebke, FAIA, will present the evolving role of the Commission of Fine Arts in the context of the artistic, social, and political circumstances that fostered the commission’s creation and the subsequent trends that have informed its decisions. As design philosophies and styles changed over the century, the commission also shifted its emphasis—from Beaux-Arts architecture and planning principles to the modernist pragmatism of midcentury, the urban redevelopment, and historicist trends of the late twentieth century, and to the contemporary era characterized by issues of security, sustainability, and information technology. 

The Charles H. Atherton Memorial Lecture program commemorates the life and legacy of Charles Atherton, who served for almost four decades as Secretary of the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts. The lecture series is dedicated to providing a forum for discourse on the planning and design of Washington, D.C.

1.5 LU HSW (AIA) / 1.5 CM (AICP) / 1.5 LA CES (ASLA)

$12 Members; FREE Students; $20 Non-members. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable. Registration is for event planning purposes only and does not guarantee a seat. Online registration for Museum programs closes at midnight the day before the scheduled program.

The Museum's award-winning Shop and Firehook Café are open for one hour prior to the start of the program. Shop and Café hours are subject to change.

Photo: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts

Time: 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

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