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By David B. Gleason from Chicago, IL - The Pentagon, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons
By David B. Gleason from Chicago, IL - The Pentagon, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

9 Amazing Facts About The Pentagon

By David B. Gleason from Chicago, IL - The Pentagon, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons
By David B. Gleason from Chicago, IL - The Pentagon, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Pentagon, home to the U.S. Department of Defense, is a remarkable building—and has been since ground was broken on its Arlington, Virginia site 75 years ago, on September 11, 1941. Within three months, the U.S. would declare war on Germany, Italy, Japan, and their allies, and by 1945 the Pentagon would be home to the most powerful military in the world.

1. IT’S SIMPLY ENORMOUS.

Okay, you know this already, but how big is enormous? About 6.6 million square feet. More than 17 miles of corridors. A five-acre central plaza. It’s only 77 feet above ground (five stories), but each of its five sides is 921 feet long, which means a lap around the outside of the building is almost a mile, which may make it easier to understand why in the early years—before there were telephones at every desk, and before email—some messengers took to the hallways on roller skates. When finished in 1943, the Pentagon became the largest office building in the world, and it’s still one of the biggest.

2. THEY BUILT IT FAST.

Because it was built in sections, by the end of April 1942—a mere eight months after the first batch of concrete was poured—employees were moving in. On January 15, 1943, thanks to a multiple-shift, 24-hour-a-day construction schedule, it was complete.

3. THE PENTAGON’S ARCHITECTS COULDN’T KEEP UP WITH CONSTRUCTION.

There was such pressure to build quickly—there was simply not enough office space for the thousands of military personnel flooding into Washington after Pearl Harbor—that construction on parts of the building often began before blueprints and other design documents were finished, despite there being about 1000 architects designing the building onsite.

4. IT’S MOSTLY MADE OF CONCRETE. 

By U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

It seems fitting that the choice of building material for the Pentagon was informed by a war shortage. Because of World War II, which had been going on in Europe for two years before construction began, steel was in short supply. Because steel is needed to build high, the Pentagon was designed to be short. The primary building material? Concrete, comprised, in part, of 680,000 tons of sand and gravel from the Potomac. Also absent, until recently—elevators, because you need steel to make them. Now, thanks to a massive renovation project, there are 70 of them.

5. IT’S FIVE-SIDED BECAUSE THAT WAS THE SHAPE OF ITS ORIGINAL SITE.

The first site chosen for the building was Arlington Farms, which was pentagon-shaped. But planners figured out that the building would block the view of Washington from nearby Arlington National Cemetery. So another site was chosen (where Hoover Field used to be). By this time, planning was so far advanced that the shape couldn’t be changed. Also, President Roosevelt liked the design—an important factor in keeping the original layout. "I like it because nothing like it has ever been done that way before," Roosevelt said of the design.

6. THE PENTAGON SHAPE WAS ALSO EFFICIENT.

“Like a circle, a pentagon would create shorter walking distances within the building—30 to 50 percent less than in a rectangle, architects calculated—but its lines and walls would be straight and, therefore, much easier to build,” wrote Steve Vogel in Washington Post Magazine. In theory, at least, it takes no longer than six minutes to walk between any two spots in the building. According to Vogel, the shape also proved conducive to optimal use of space and utilities, such as electricity and plumbing.

7. IT ALMOST HAD SEGREGATED BATHROOMS.

As specified by Virginia state law regarding segregation in public buildings at the time it was built, the Pentagon almost had segregated bathrooms and eating areas. But President Franklin D. Roosevelt had, in June 1941, outlawed discrimination in the defense industry with Executive Order 8802. After Roosevelt visited the partially-completed building in 1942 and noticed a surfeit of bathrooms (284 in all), he may have insisted that there be no separation according to race. This was only one of a number of racial issues that surfaced during construction, according to Snopes

8. ANTIWAR PROTESTERS TRIED TO LEVITATE THE BUILDING.

By US Army - NARA, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The year was 1967, and passions against the U.S. military presence in Vietnam were running high. Thousands of protesters marched to the Pentagon, and, as part of a dramatic “exorcism,” tried to lift it off the ground. The attempt failed, because—to begin with, 680,000 tons of sand.

According to Arthur Magazine’s oral history of the event, in the planning stages, military representatives negotiated with the protest leaders, and came to a compromise regarding the liftoff: they could only raise the building three feet, not 22, as originally planned. The military was concerned that lifting it higher would cause major structural damage.

9. IT INCLUDED A SECRET APARTMENT.

In order to save time during the construction phase, apartments were built onsite for supervisors, and even after completion, one remained. After Captain Robert Furman discovered that his former digs—a small, windowless apartment in the Ordnance Department office bay—remained, he used it to save on hotel expenses during his post-construction visits to Washington. Eventually, higher-ups caught on, and the secret hideaway was dismantled. During his stays there, office workers would see him suddenly emerge with his suitcase, but remained clueless as to why.  “They all wondered what was in that room,” he said.

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Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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Pol Viladoms
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architecture
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
Pol Viladoms
Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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