Benevolo Leonardo, Storia dell’architettura moderna, Editori Laterza, 1993
The home of the most popular man in the world is in Palladian style.
The White House was built following a competition launched in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson (then Secretary of State). The winning project, among the nine participants (one of which is the same Jefferson) was chosen by George Washington himself, which, however, asked that was expanded to third and most decorated. To please him, was added to the East Room, similar to the reception room of his house.
The author of the project was James Hoban (1762-1831), an Irish architect based in Philadelphia. The main front in the north was perhaps inspired by the Leinster House in Dublin (later Irish House of Parliament). Unlike this, in the White House, the pediment comes out of the front, turning into a pronao, that’s a colonnaded vestibule, according to the Andrea Palladio’s lesson. The project, recall a little a previous work by Hoban: the Charleston County Courthouse.
For the south facade, characterized by a semicircular portico, the reference is more difficult.
The facade is in fact identical to the Château de Rastignac in Bourgougne, France, by Mathurin Salat. This building, however, was built between 1812 and 1817.
However, this building was built between 1812 and 1817 and Salat had not seen the White House, while Hoban never went to France.
The explanation could be that, from 1785 to 1789, Jefferson was in France (there had been from 1774 to 1779, as ambassador) and had the opportunity to see the Salat’s project, already designed in 1789. Then, when it also became president, he added the columned porch in front of the main facade. Jefferson’s role is not secondary: the Father of American Democracy was one of the promoters of the neo-classical style in the American architecture of the time.
Burned by the Britishmen in 1814, renovated in 1949 by Truman (who kept only the fronts, making the interior rebuild on a steel structure), restored by Jacqueline Kennedy during her husband’s office, the White House is today a complex of 5100mq. To the Executive Residence (main building), are connected the West Wing (which contains the current Oval Office and the staff offices) and the East Wing (which includes the Office of the First Lady and hides the entrance to the bunker Presidential).
The 132 rooms of the White House include 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, 3 elevators, 35 bathrooms, a tennis court, a bowling alley, a cinema, a swimming pool, a jogging track.
Around the building there’s a park of more than 7 hectares, redesigned in 1935 by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., planted by a number of Magnolia grandiflora and by the Jacqueline Kennedy’s rose garden.