What they really symbolized.
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."
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.
Photograph of Barack Obama speaking at the Democratic National Convention by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.