Description of the Building
The general character of Goodhue's three-story building, viewed from the Constitution Avenue side, is in harmony with other Washington buildings constructed before prestressed concrete. Tending toward neoclassicism, the building, however, is free of the rows of columns usually associated with neoclasssical architecture in the nation's capital. Goodhue himself thought it was impossible to date the style of the building and called it Alexandrian, referring to the period (300 B.C.-400 A.D.) when Greek literature and learning centered at ancient Alexandria, Egypt, site of the famed Library and Museum. Concerning his appellation, Gano Dunn wryly remarked, "Little enough of Alexandrian civilization and practically nothing at all of its architectural style is known, so perhaps it is safe to class the National Academy-Research Council building as Alexandrian." The interior decor is eclectic but verges toward the art deco mode popular when the building was designed.
From a structural standpoint, the building site was somewhat unfavorable, as it comprised an old stream bed, covered over years earlier when the tidal flats were filled in. The foundations required special precautions—74 concrete piers, 5 feet square, sunk to bedrock, 23 to 25 feet deep, support the girders holding up the walls. The girders bearing the terrace rest on 33 large concrete-filled steel tubes.
Many different-sized stone courses of ashlar masonry are arrayed to form the exterior walls. The courses are recessed to form a "battered" wall, where the masonry is not exactly plumb, but slightly set back, in this case about one-quarter of an inch per foot. Battering creates a sense of monumentality. This construction is easily seen in the west exterior wall of the auditorium (which follows the original building in style), where from bottom to top the marble blocks are increasingly indented from the edge of the brick sustaining wall.
... A Temple of Science Recognition of Need The Architect The Setting and the Grounds Description of the Building The Façade The Window Panels The Doors The Main Foyer and the Great Hall The Library and the Members' Room The Lecture Room and the Board Room The Wings The Auditorium The Albert Einstein Memorial Restoration of the NAS Building