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Sparavigna, A. (2016). Alignments to sunrise and sunset on solstices in the layout of Lafayette Square, Washington. PHILICA.COM Article number 601.

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Alignments to sunrise and sunset on solstices in the layout of Lafayette Square, Washington

Amelia Carolina Sparavignaunconfirmed user (Department of Applied Science and Technology, Politecnico di Torino)

Published in enviro.philica.com

Abstract
The paper is discussing the astronomical alignments we can find in the layout of Lafayette Square, a park located directly north of the White House, in Washington. Alignments are marking the sunrise and sunset azimuths on solstices. SunCalc.net software has used for investigating such alignments.

Article body


 

Alignments to sunrise and sunset on solstices in the layout of Lafayette Square, Washington

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, Politecnico di Torino, Italy

 

The paper is discussing the astronomical alignments we can find in the layout of Lafayette Square, a park located directly north of the White House, in Washington. Alignments are marking the sunrise and sunset azimuths on solstices. SunCalc.net software has used for investigating such alignments.

Keywords: Landscape Architecture, Solar Orientation, Solstices, Urban Planning, Satellite Images, Google Earth.

 

Recently we have discussed some remarkable cases of architectures planned with a layout showing solar alignments [1-3]. In particular we have discussed the Mughal gardens using, for determining the alignments, the SunCalc.net software which is giving sunrise and sunset azimuths on satellite maps for any day of the year [3]. Some Mughal gardens are displaying alignments to such azimuths on solstices, used not for astronomical or calendrical observations, but as a symbolic element of the macrocosm in the local microcosm of the garden.

The Mughal gardens shown in [1-3] have their roots in the old tradition of Hellenistic and Oriental gardens. An interesting research is that of finding examples of such astronomical alignments in more recent and Western structures. Here we discuss an example of solar alignments in the layout of a park, remarkable for its position: it is the Lafayette Square, a public park of the President's Park in Washington DC. The Lafayette park is located directly north of the White House.

The Square is named for the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution. It was planned as part of the pleasure grounds surrounding the Executive Mansion, originally called as "President's Park". At the center of the Square we find the statue of early 19th century President and general Andrew Jackson on horseback. Four statues of heroes of the Revolutionary War are marking the corners: of General Gilbert de Lafayette at SE, Major General Jean de Rochambeau of France at SW, Brigadier General Thaddeus Kosciuszko of Poland at NE and of the Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben of Prussia at NW.

The history of the planning of the Square is given in [4]. After various designs, Lafayette Park was redesigned by Andrew Jackson Downing in 1851. His plan was reinterpreted by the Corps of Engineers in the 1870s and 1880s and then by the National Park Service in the 1930s. The park was redesigned from 1962 to 1970 by the architectural firm John Carl Warnecke Associates, in association with Mrs. Paul Mellon and the National Park Service. "Warnecke used Andrew Jackson Downing’s earlier design as a framework by which to design an urban park space that would link new construction on the east and west ends of the park while providing for the preservation of significant 19th century streetscapes on Madison and Jackson Places" [4]. "Downing’s 1851 plan for President's Park is the first detailed development plan … with a central elliptical walkway bisected on the north and south by two additional walkways curving in towards the center of the park. In the center of the park a pedestal was installed as a base for an equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson dedicated in 1853" [4].

The preservation of the Lafayette Park with its Victorian-like outlook given to it by Downing was strongly supported by Jacqueline Kennedy, the wife of President John F. Kennedy, and First Lady of the United States. As discussed in [5], "were it not for Jackie Kennedy's spearheading the historic preservation movement in the nation's capital, Lafayette Square would likely have been bulldozed". In a letter the First Lady wrote "All architects are innovators, and would rather do something new than in the spirit of old building. I think they are totally wrong in this case, as the important thing is to preserve the 19th Century feeling of Lafayette Square". And, in [5], we find also that the final plan for Lafayette Square, developed by the architect John Carl Warnecke, “showed Jackie's strong influence".

Thanks to the First Lady we can observe the Lafayette Square planned by Downing in the satellite images. If we use SunCalc.net, the Square appears having alignments of the four statues along the sunrise and sunset azimuths on solstices. Let us observe them in the Figure 1.

 

Figure 1: The Lafayette park is located directly north of the White House.  At the center of the Square we find the statue of President Andrew Jackson. Four statues of heroes of the Revolutionary War are marking the corners. SunCalc.net shows the sunrise (yellow) and sunset (orange) azimuths on solstices. Note the alignments of statues which are at the ends of the curved pathways.


If we compare the Figure 1 to the figures in [1-3] of some Mughal gardens, we easily see the analogy. The gardens have a rectangular layout, with the axis coincident to the cardinal direction NS. Moreover, they have the solar alignments.  No references to a specific planning of  alignments along the solar azimuths for the Lafayette Square are available. However, since, the central elliptical path bisected by the two curved additional walkways is proper of Downing’s 1851 plan [4], we can tell that these alignments were also in the original Downing’s planning. They had not been added by Warnecke, because the layout is the same of that we can see in the Figure 2, which is showing the Square in  1949.

 

Figure 2: The Lafayette Square in 1949 (Courtesy Google Earth).

References

[1] Sparavigna, A. C. (2013). The Gardens of Taj Mahal and the Sun, International Journal of Sciences, 2(11), 104-107. DOI: 10.18483/ijsci.346

[2] Sparavigna, A. C. (2013). Solar Azimuths in the Planning of a Nur Jahan’s Charbagh, International Journal of Sciences, 2(12), 8-10. DOI: 10.18483/ijsci.353

[3] Sparavigna, A. (2015). Observations on the Orientation of Some Mughal Gardens. PHILICA.COM Article number 455.

[4] Vv. Aa. (2000). The White House and President's Park, Comprehensive Design Plan: Environmental Impact Statement. Washington, D.C. : U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service.

[5] Anthony, K. H. (2001).  Designing for Diversity: Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in the Architectural Profession, University of Illinois Press.

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This Article was published on 15th May, 2016 at 14:59:49 and has been viewed 1907 times.

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The full citation for this Article is:
Sparavigna, A. (2016). Alignments to sunrise and sunset on solstices in the layout of Lafayette Square, Washington. PHILICA.COM Article number 601.


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