TThe position of architect of the Capitol has been in the spotlight lately after President Joe Biden fired the most recent architect, Brett Blanton, on Monday.
But what is the role of the architect? And what do they do? The architect was initially the person who designed and oversaw the construction of the complex, which dates back to 1793. But in recent years, the role has expanded beyond construction and into the upkeep and maintenance of Capitol Hill and their grounds.
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The Capitol complex is the heart of more than 18.4 million square feet of buildings and 570 acres of architect-maintained grounds. The grounds include the complex, the House and Senate office buildings, the Library of Congress, and the botanical gardens, among others. The architect firm also oversees more than 2,000 employees.
Dome of the US Capitol building in Washington DC.
Blanton’s daily role was to oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the complex and grounds. He also oversaw the implementation of new policies, especially related to security, and was in charge of all renovations and restorations on Capitol Hill.
Appointed to a 10-year term by former President Donald Trump, Blanton sat as one of three people on the Capitol Police Board. That means he helped decide where to put fencing and security when it comes to events on Capitol Hill, including during the State of the Union. The other two members are the sergeants-at-arms of the House and Senate. It is the deciding vote on security in the event of a tie between the sergeants, as in Biden’s last State of the Union.
Other events at the Capitol include concerts during the Fourth of July, presidential inaugurations, and the lie-in-state for notable citizens, including presidents.
President Donald Trump delivers his inaugural address after being inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States during the 58th presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Blanton was removed as architect on Monday after being accused of misusing government funds. He was also criticized for his response to the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill in 2021. Blanton was not on the ground that day and coordinated with Capitol Police from the safety of his home.
“I’m trying to understand why you physically weren’t here on a pretty important day,” Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) said at a House Administration Committee hearing with Blanton last week. “Especially considering the fact that you have access to information, being on the Capitol Police Board, about potential problems we have on this campus.”
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He was later removed from office after a bipartisan group of members of Congress called for his resignation. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said he had lost confidence in Blanton after the hearing. Allegations also emerged from an inspector general’s report that he allowed his family to drive his government vehicle, misusing government funds in the process.
Chere Rexroat, the former chief engineering officer of the Capitol, has been chosen as acting architect in Blanton’s place.