The U.S. Tax Court by Victor Lundy (designed in 1965; built in 1974) is an intriguing mid-century modern building. As you are rushing to work, you can easily pass the blocky-glass-walled sides of the building without taking too much notice. But when you actually stop for a second and look at the building from the front, you will see a deconstructed cube with four parts, the most striking of which is the 4,000-ton cantilevered courtroom block on the front held up by an innovative cable system (see images in the slideshow).
On Feb. 27, the D.C. Preservation League in cooperation with the Government Services Administration held a rare public tour of the building, which has been named to the National Register of Historic Places and to the list of DC historic sites. The two-hour tour was led by one of GSA’s senior preservation experts, Joan Bierton, who has worked extensively securing the designation for the building. She is currently working on a film about Lundy, 87, who studied with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer at Harvard and became a leading member of Paul Rudolph’s Sarasota School.
The most powerful space in the building is the open, four-story Hall of Justice with walls of glass on the front, clerestory windows at the top and natural materials: bronze columns, granite floors and walls and vertical slats of teak and hemlock ceiling. One unfortunate thing we learned during the tour is that the judges did not take Lundy’s advice on the furniture. Lundy, who was based in New York, brought down representatives from Knoll to show the judges the latest in modern furniture. Beirton said the judges loved the modern building, but decorated with traditional-style furniture.
You can read a more detailed GSA history about the the U.S. Tax Court building here. And if you like Lundy’s work, you can even rent a house he designed for his family in Aspen.