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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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.


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


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.


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.

Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images
Vantablack Pavilion at the Winter Olympics Mimics the Darkness of Space
Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images
Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images

British company Surrey NanoSystems disrupted the color spectrum when it debuted Vantablack: the darkest artificial substance ever made. The material is dark enough to absorb virtually all light waves, making 3D objects look like endless black voids. It was originally designed for technology, but artists and designers have embraced the unique shade. Now, Dezeen reports that British architect Asif Khan has brought Vantablack to the Winter Olympics.

His temporary pavilion at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea has been dubbed the darkest building on Earth. The 33-foot-tall structure has been coated with Vantablack VBx2, a version of Vantablack pigment that comes in a spray can.

The building’s sides curve inward like shadowboxes. To break up the all-consuming blackness, Khan outfitted the walls with rods. White lights at the ends of the sticks create the effect of stars scattered across an endless night sky.

Child next to wall painted to look like the night sky.
Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images

Khan told Dezeen that the piece is meant to give “the impression of a window cut into space.” He was only able to realize this vision after contacting the scientists behind Vantablack. He told them he wanted to use the color to coat a building, something the pigment wasn’t designed for originally. Sculptor Anish Kapoor securing exclusive rights to artistic use of the color in 2016 further complicated his plans. The solution was the sprayable version: Vantablack VBx2 is structurally (and therefore legally) different from the original pigment and better suited for large-scale projects.

The pavilion was commissioned by Hyundai to promote their hydrogen fuel cell technology. The space-themed exterior is a nod to the hydrogen in stars. Inside, a white room filled with sprinklers is meant to represent the hydrogen found in water.

The area will be open to visitors during the Winter Olympics, which kick off in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Friday, February 9.

[h/t Dezeen]

Shari Austrian
You Can Order a Stunningly Detailed LEGO Replica of Your House on Etsy
Shari Austrian
Shari Austrian

LEGO blocks can be used to construct fictional starships and works of abstract art, but there's something comforting in replicating what's familiar to you. That's the concept behind Little Brick Lane, an Etsy shop that promises to custom-build detailed LEGO models of real homes.

Designer Shari Austrian tells Apartment Therapy that the idea came to her when her family was building their real-life house. Her twin boys had recently gotten her interested in LEGO, so she decided to construct a scaled-down, blocky replica to match their new home. She enjoyed the project enough to launch a business around LEGO architecture on Etsy at the end of 2017.

Austrian bases her designs off interior and exterior photos of each house, and if they're available, architectural plans. Over eight to 10 weeks, she constructs the model using LEGO pieces she orders to match the building design perfectly, recreating both the inside and outside of the house in the utmost detail.

To request a custom LEGO abode of your own, you can reach out to Austrian through her Etsy shop, but warning: It won't come cheap. A full model will cost you at least $2500 (the exact price is based on the square footage of your home). That price covers the cost of the materials Austrian invests in each house, which can add up quick. "The average LEGO piece costs approximately 10 cents," she tells Mental Floss, and her models are made up of tens of thousands of pieces. But if you're looking for something slightly cheaper, she also offers exterior-only models for $1500 and up.

For your money, you can be confident that Austrian won't skimp on any details. As you can see in the images below, every feature of your house—from the appliances in your kitchen to the flowers in your yard—will be immortalized in carefully chosen plastic bricks.

A bedroom made of LEGO

A kitchen model made of LEGO

The exterior of a house made of LEGO

[h/t Apartment Therapy]

All images courtesy of Shari Austrian.


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