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
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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.

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