Dirksen Building Architecture

Due to the economic conditions of the 1950s the design of the Dirksen Senate Office Building was kept simple to keep costs down. It had to be a worthy neighbor of the Russell Office Building and the Capitol, but expensive ornament or grand interiors were avoided. The principal architectural interest of the exterior lies on the First Street elevation, which is a five-part composition dominated by a central pavilion. The suggestion of a colonnade along this facade is handled by piers alternating between tall dark window columns. It is simple and effective, a nod to both the classical tradition and the modern aesthetic. What is surprising, however, is not to find the building's principal entrances in the central pavilion. These are instead located around the corners and enter into exceedingly simple and small lobbies. Most of the Dirksen Building's interior plan is devoted to hearing rooms and staff space in support of committee work. Each of the building's 12 committee rooms was designed with a rostrum and room for reporters and witnesses. The committee rooms are the building's finest interior features, designed with walnut paneled walls and imposing bronze lighting fixtures. Other features incorporated into the building, which reflected the modern advances of the time, included an auditorium seating approximately 500 persons and equipped with radio, television, motion picture, recording and broadcasting facilities; a cafeteria seating seven hundred persons; a telephone exchange system; a parking garage for two hundred cars; and a fluorescent lighting system. The Senate's subway system was rebuilt in a new tunnel in order to serve both the Russell and Dirksen Buildings.