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The Jurisprudence of Courthouses

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11 Responses

  1. Milbarge says:

    But courthouses aren’t built in vacuums. The design of the Supreme Court building took place during a boom period in classical architecture in government buildings. That doesn’t make your theory wrong — the Lincoln Memorial, for example, could stand for many of the same things — but I think it means it’s not *only* about the jurisprudence of an architectural style. Neat idea, though.

  2. John Jenkins says:

    My new goal is to work “architectual instantiation” into a conversation sometime. I wish *I* had thought of that.

  3. jeanneret says:

    The architectural style of the buildings owes much more to what was au courant at the time it was built as opposed to jurisprudential reasons. The US Supreme Court building was constructed at the tail end of the Beaux-Arts period, which generally began at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Why Beaux-Arts (as its adoption of neo-classical elements), as opposed to neo-gothicism, became au courant for American civic buildings during that time is a much broader, and more concrete, issue than macro-views on law. But, as they saw, if you’ve got a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail ;) .

  4. jeanneret says:

    Ironically, Nate, King John — signer of that “shaky deal” called the Magna Carta — is actually immortalized in the frieze of the Supreme Court building itself. Blackstone’s up there too (but not Coke — maybe your thesis has legs after all…).

  5. Nate Oman says:

    In my defense, I would point out that classicism was popular in American civic architecture long before the Beaux-Arts movement. I for one assume that architects spend virtually all of their spare time studying out the relative merits of Coke, Selden, Mansfield, and Story. Indeed, I suspect that this is mainly what they talk about around the water cooler.

  6. Anglophile says:

    Architectural fads are different on the two sides of the Atlantic, though. You will rarely see American civic buildings in the neo-gothic style that characterizes not only the Houses of Parlaiment (Palace of Westminster) and the Royal Courts of Justice, but many town halls and local courts and the like throughout England. Maybe the Brits rejected the French, but I also think the Americans self-consciously rejected the Brits.

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