Report of the Jury for the Nebraska State Capitol Commission
Lincoln, Nebraska (June 26, 1920) — Believing that the best way to secure a design for a great and monumental building is to directly select a competent architect and then, by collaboration, through a series of studies, develop with him a scheme covering essential requirements; your Jury in this spirit, after analyzing for more than three days the various schemes submitted, reached the following conclusion.
Heretofore, in National, State, County and Municipal building projects, the practice of selecting an architect by competition has proven in so many instances to be impractical and unsatisfactory; impractical because of cross currents in politics, personal preferences and “misguided loyalty”; unsatisfactory because such a process has eliminated that requisite collaboration between the architect and owner before formulating the scheme of the building.
Your Jury in this belief desires, first of all, to commend the Capitol Commission and its professional Advisor for having in the program governing this competition promulgated a document that it expects will prove to be of great value, not only to the State of Nebraska, but to the nation at large.
This competition under this program has demonstrated that there has been found a means of approximating the advantages of direct selection of an architect in a situation where competition seems necessary.
Your Jury not only wishes to commend this program for its liberal scope, but desires to point out that its task has been greater than it would have been under the old method of selecting a design of a building rather than a designer of a building.
The problem of selecting an architect by means of such a program involves expressions more subtle, more psychological and much more difficult than the mere study of the drawings for the selection of a design from which to build.
In other words, the solution was not the simple one of selection, by means of the easier method of comparison of definite designs, but the more complex one of selecting by means of the showing made in this competition, the architect who would be best equipped to design, on requirements not yet matured, a building that would represent collaboration between owner and architect.
While your program fortunately contained no large restrictions or petty mandataries, it demanded a most serious study of the broad questions of architecture.
The program gave us a most definite basis on which we were to form our judgement, namely, “utility”, “appearance,” and “expenditure” each to be given equal weight, but in considering these attributes, we cannot ignore the atmosphere of breadth, vision and freedom of the whole program; the appreciation that the Capitol is the outward sign of the character of the people of Nebraska—the Highway of Progress, the Provider of Man’s necessities, the Battle Ground of Freedom, the Distributor of Learning, the Home of the Volunteer.
A monument to the “highway of Progress” should be guided but not fettered by the legacies of the masters; the “Provider of Man’s Necessities” calls for the noble and inspiring; the “Battle Ground of Freedom” knows not ignoble servitude; the “Distributor of Learning” has its foundation on knowledge; “In the Home of the Volunteer” there must be courage.
After devoting three days of study to these ten sets of drawings, your Jury believes that they demonstrate that a high water mark has been reached in the presentation of such schemes and designs, for all of the competitors, except two, have presented designs of the highest merit.
In the study to arrive at its verdict, the Jury by a process of elimination first reduced the number of contestants to six, then to four, then to three.
It may be of interest to your Commission to know that at this stage of study the three designs selected as best answering the problems, presented three types, not because the Jury felt that we should finally consider different kinds of buildings, but because the three different kinds of buildings considered happened to best embody the solution of the program.
Then after eliminating one of these three designs, the Jury decided that between those remaining the author of the design marked by the identifying number 4 should be the architect to design the new Capitol of Nebraska.
We judge that the design of the winner shows the greatest utility of any of the plans; that it shows him to be able to design a monument worthy of Nebraska, and it shows him to be capable of giving the fullest consideration as to proper expenditure. While he sacrificed nothing in area and nothing in utility and nothing in beauty, he has been able to produce a building that is less than 75% of the size of the average building in this competition. He has produced for this land a building as free from binding traditions as it is from prejudice, an edifice that expresses his capability of designing any kind of monument that may later develop as suitable, after a study by him in collaboration with the Commission, of the particular requirements.
He has planned his building as one that indicates its location, the site accepted by all the competitors, from which radiate avenues in four directions; a proper expression of the location of this site, as it also is a proper symbol of the Capital of Nebraska, the center of the United States.
Furthermore, your Jury believes that a point worthy of the highest consideration in connection with this program, is the proposed extension of Fifteenth Street further north, the widening of “J” Street east and to the west. In our opinion, if your capitol building should prove to be a successful architectural monument, which our judgement leads us to expect. then it will be all the more important that these street extensions and widenings should be made.
Respectfully submitted to the Governor and Capitol Commission.
Waddy B. Wood
James Gamble Rogers
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Capitol quick facts
- Construction started in 1922, completed in 1932.
- The architect was Bertram G. Goodhue.
- There are 15 floors above ground.
- The building is 400 feet tall.
- It is the third Nebraska State Capitol.
- It cost $9.8 million in 1932 dollars.
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