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The U.S. Supreme Court’s Democratic Spaces, Jocelyn J. Evans and Keith Gaddie

Reviewed by Edward L. Rubin
 

The physical structures where a polity conducts its operations indicate its demands, reflect its desires, and reveal its dissimulations. In The U.S. Supreme Court's Democratic Spaces, Jocelyn Evans and Keith Gaddie recount the way the structures that have housed our highest court have performed these varied functions. They explain how the Court, during the time when its role was uncertain, moved from borrowed spaces in New York and Philadelphia to a basement in the Capitol building, then to the vacated Senate chamber. Finally, in 1935, the Court obtained a home of its own, the grand, neoclassic structure that it currently occupies. The authors provide a comprehensive tour of this structure's overall design, functional spaces, and decorative features. They then explain that the chief architect, Cass Gilbert, had the classical temple, specifically the Parthenon, in mind; although they add, somewhat speculatively, that he derived additional inspiration from the Temples of Karnak and Solomon.

While the authors are alert to criticisms of American government and its architectural manifestations, they generally accept the view that neoclassic architecture reflects our nation's democratic character. There is reason to question both parts of this apparently comforting equivalence, however. Classical temples were religious buildings designed to honor

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