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Design picked for new Alaska Capitol
by Sean Cockerham
Anchorage Daily News


March 03, 2005

Juneau, Alaska - The California architectural firm Morphosis, whose design concept featured an egg-shaped dome, has won the competition to create a new state Capitol in Juneau.

But a new Capitol is far from a reality. Legislators have said they don't want to pay for it, and the public, particularly in Juneau, condemned all four finalists' design visions.

All were futuristic; none resembled more traditional capitols. The Morphosis design was the only finalist with a dome. Most of the public comment was against all the designs.

"People reacted very badly to all four, but at least some of them liked the idea of a dome," said Anchorage developer Joe Henri, a member of the jury that picked the winner.

Capitol boosters need as much support as they can muster to persuade lawmakers to back the project, he said. So the public desire for a dome was among the reasons he favored Morphosis.

The city of Juneau sponsored the design competition, hoping an estimated $100 million new Capitol would end recurring efforts to move the capital to Southcentral Alaska. Supporters of a new Capitol also argue the current Capitol is cramped and outdated.

Letters to the local paper, the Juneau Empire, over the past few days slammed the designs as sci-fi and downright ugly

"I think the people have lost their freaking minds," Rick Tyner of Juneau wrote. "I would rather move the capital to Anchorage then look at one of these eyesores the rest of my life here."

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho acknowledged hearing outrage. But he emphasized the designs weren't final.

"This exercise was intended to select a design team who could work with Alaskans in coming up with whatever that unique icon of Alaska democracy would be," he said.

Some critics called the Morphosis design too modern and said its dome looked like an egg or even a nuclear reactor.

But Thom Mayne, Morphosis founder, said his design was just a beginning sketch. He told the jurors he had only a few weeks to put it together and plans to change how the dome looks.

"If you say egg, I fail," he said.

But he said in an interview that he disagreed with people, including several members of the Legislature, who wanted a design more reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol.

"We live in the 21st century and this country is about intellectual and creative capital," Mayne said. "Do we want an image of the 18th or 19th century as a symbol?"


Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service,

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