White House, the residence and workplace of the President of the United States, was not built in a day. The architecture of the White House is a story of how a building can be rebuilt, renovated, and expanded to fulfill the needs of the occupant — sometimes in spite of historic preservationists.
Every president, starting with George Washington, has had a hand in it—from selecting its site, as Washington did, to making major renovations, as Theodore Roosevelt did, and to making the house feel like a home, as every president has done. Recently, the building has undergone renovations to replace the heating and air conditioning system.
The structure built in the early 1800s is a central piece of America’s identity. David Fannon, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University credits the building’s success to three major reasons: the centuries-old building has endured because it’s built out of durable materials, it continues to be used by people, and it has major social significance.
There have also been times in the past when renovations were made to include new windows, new energy-efficient lightbulbs, adding solar panels, and more. “That was very of-the-time,” Fannon said. “That was right during the energy crisis, and former president Jimmy Carter was very aware that ‘America’s house’ should be an example for the rest of the country.”
“Once buildings are stained with history, we’re willing to look past other parts of it,” Fannon said. That historical significance makes older buildings exempt from other amenities people might expect in a new building. “Sometimes the only record of a way of life at a certain time is its architecture,” Fannon said. A very heavy responsibility for architects that build buildings that have a world view embedded in them.