Two and a half weeks into my new job, I’ve decided that the most succinct way to describe my work is that I get paid to be nice to people all day. Of course, there is more to it than that, but being nice is a major part, and it’s really very uplifting. It can be a little tiring, but wouldn’t it be so much more tiring to have to be mean to people all day?
The relationship between the Capitol and its new extension, the Capitol Visitor Center, fascinates me; I’d like to think the relationship is a symbiotic one. Having stood for over 200 years, the Capitol is many things: an icon of democracy, a working building where laws are made, a historic site, a place to see some beautiful art, a DC landmark. These are the things people come to see, the reasons the Capitol is drawing several thousand visitors each day.
But despite all these reasons it is worth visiting, visitor-friendliness (especially two centuries into the future) probably was not at the forefront of architects’ minds back in the day. Public restrooms inside the Capitol are few and far between. Ramps have been added to parts of corridors after the fact to allow accessibility. Narrow hallways can quickly fill with interested tour groups.
The new CVC provides the visitor-friendliness. When visitors ask me where the restrooms are, there are more than I can point to at once. Anywhere anyone might need to go, there is an elevator. There are plenty of places to sit. In early 2008, when I worked in the Capitol while the CVC was still being built, I would see tourists lined up on the sidewalk for hours waiting to get a tour. Now, everything is designed to make their experience seamless, and to allow them to spend extra time in exhibits or the restaurant rather than in lines.
Although the CVC has a really awesome exhibition hall, I’ve learned from talking to visitors that it’s the rotunda and the House and Senate chambers that they really want to see. The CVC is the entryway into the historic parts of the Capitol, and it’s hopefully a friendly and comfortable one.