What Obama's columns at Invesco field really symbolized.

What we build.
Aug. 29 2008 10:15 AM

Obama's Columns

What they really symbolized.

Invesco Field. Click image to expand.
Barack Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention 2008 at the Invesco Field

The backdrop to Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field last night was widely described as a Greek temple. Some have compared it to the Lincoln Memorial, a secular temple, before which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, whose 45th anniversary coincided with the convention. Others saw architectural allusions to the White House.

Actually, the Denver setting was a loose (and much smaller) version of the neoclassical colonnade in Chicago's Soldier Field. That structure, part of an athletic stadium designed in 1919 by Holabird & Roche, commemorated World War I soldiers, hence the name. So the symbolic messages of the much-maligned Temple of Obama are not only "Lincoln," "Martin Luther King," and "White House," but also "Chicago," "war memorial" and "ancient Greece: birthplace of democracy."

Soldier Field. Click image to expand.
Chicago's Soldier Field

The real surprise is that a campaign based on change eschewed Gehry-esque billowing-cloud shapes, Libeskindian jagged shards, and even stainless-and-maple Starbucks moderne. Is Obama a closet Classicist, or is this merely another measure of this contradictory politician?

Witold Rybczynski is Slate's architecture critic His latest book is The Biography of a Building: How Robert Sainsbury and Norman Foster Built a Great Museum. Visit his Web site. Follow him on Twitter.



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.