Hubert H. Humphrey Building

Last updated
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
Department of Health & Human Services - Stierch.jpg
Hubert H. Humphrey Building in 2011.
Location map Washington, D.C. central.png
Red pog.svg
Location within Central Washington, D.C.
Alternative namesUnited States Department of Health and Human Services headquarters building
General information
TypeGovernment office building
Architectural style Postmodern and Brutalist
Address200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°53′12″N77°00′52″W / 38.886711°N 77.014413°W / 38.886711; -77.014413
Construction startedMay 1972
CompletedNovember 1, 1977
Design and construction
Architecture firm Marcel Breuer

The Hubert H. Humphrey Building is a low-rise Brutalist office building located in Washington, D.C., in the United States. Originally known as the South Portal Building, the Hubert H. Humphrey Building was dedicated on November 1, 1977. It became the headquarters of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). After the department's education component was given to the newly created United States Department of Education in 1979, the newly named United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continued to occupy the structure.

Brutalist architecture style of architecture

Brutalist architecture or Brutalism is an architectural style which emerged in the mid-20th century and gained popularity in the 1970s. It descended from the modernist architectural movement of the early 20th century. It is characterized by simple, block-like structures that often feature bare building materials. Exposed concrete is favored in construction, however some examples are primarily made of brick. Though beginning in Europe, Brutalist architecture can now be found around the world. The style has been most commonly used in the design of institutional buildings such as libraries, courts, public housing and city halls.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.


The Hubert H. Humphrey Building is located at 200 Independence Avenue SW in Washington, D.C. It is named for Hubert H. Humphrey, then serving as U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and formerly Vice President of the United States.

Independence Avenue (Washington, D.C.) major east-west street in the southwest and southeast quadrants of Washington, D.C., United States

Independence Avenue is a major east-west street in the southwest and southeast quadrants of the city of Washington, D.C., in the United States, running just south of the United States Capitol. Originally named South B Street, Independence Avenue SW was constructed between 1791 and 1823. Independence Avenue SE was constructed in pieces as residential development occurred east of the United States Capitol and east of the Anacostia River. Independence Avenue SW received its current name after Congress renamed the street in legislation approved on April 13, 1934. Independence Avenue SW originally had its western terminus at 14th Street SW, but was extended west to Ohio Drive SW between 1941 and 1942. The government of the District of Columbia renamed the portion of the road in the southeast quadrant of the city in 1950.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.

Vice President of the United States Second highest executive office in United States

The Vice President of the United States is the second-highest officer in the executive branch of the U.S. federal government, after the President of the United States, and ranks first in the presidential line of succession. The Vice President is also an officer in the legislative branch, as President of the Senate. In this capacity, the Vice President presides over Senate deliberations, but may not vote except to cast a tie-breaking vote. The Vice President also presides over joint sessions of Congress.


Planning for the structure began about 1965. [1]

The building was designed by architect Marcel Breuer, in association with his design partner Herbert Beckhard and the architectural firm of Nolen-Swinburne and Associates. [2] In the Brutalist style, [3] it was one of the last buildings Breuer designed before his retirement. [4] The Interstate-395 tunnel (also known as the "3rd Street Tunnel") and a major sewer line are situated beneath the structure. The building is designed to act like a bridge over the sewer and tunnel, balancing on a few strategically placed columns. [2] [4] A grid of steel trusses (which taper toward the exterior of the building) extend outward from these columns, which are primarily clustered toward the interior of the building. [2] The exterior and interior walls and the floors hang from these trusses. [2] [4] The second through sixth floors of the building are clad in precast concrete panels finished with a thin granite veneer, each of which contains two large windows. The ground floor is contained by a glass curtain wall, and contains a lobby, exhibition space, and an auditorium. The first floor is open space, broken up by the main support columns and three building "cores" which contain elevators and other essential infrastructure. [4] The interior walls were prefabricated to contain electrical wiring, HVAC, and plumbing, and other essential infrastructure. Due to the prefabricated nature of the interior, the cost of the building was reduced from $40 million to just $30 million. [2] Dining facilities occupy the penthouse level of the building. There is also a balcony around the penthouse, but it is unused. [4] The lobby is paved with travertine, and originally held two tapestries designed by Breuer. [4]

Marcel Breuer Hungarian-American architect

Marcel Lajos Breuer, was a Hungarian-born modernist, architect, and furniture designer. At the Bauhaus he designed the Wassily Chair and the Cesca Chair which is “among the 10 most important chairs of the 20th century.” Breuer extended the sculptural vocabulary he had developed in the carpentry shop at the Bauhaus into a personal architecture that made him one of the world's most popular architects at the peak of 20th-century design.

Precast concrete construction product produced by casting concrete in a reusable mold

Precast concrete is a construction product produced by casting concrete in a reusable mold or "form" which is then cured in a controlled environment, transported to the construction site and lifted into place. In contrast, standard concrete is poured into site-specific forms and cured on site. Precast stone is distinguished from precast concrete using a fine aggregate in the mixture, so the final product approaches the appearance of naturally occurring rock or stone. More recently expanded polystyrene is being used as the cores to precast wall panels. This is lightweight and has better thermal insulation.

Curtain wall (architecture) outer non-structural walls of a building

A curtain wall system is an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural, utilized to keep the weather out and the occupants in. Since the curtain wall is non-structural, it can be made of lightweight materials, thereby reducing construction costs. When glass is used as the curtain wall, an advantage is that natural light can penetrate deeper within the building. The curtain wall façade does not carry any structural load from the building other than its own dead load weight. The wall transfers lateral wind loads that are incident upon it to the main building structure through connections at floors or columns of the building. A curtain wall is designed to resist air and water infiltration, absorb sway induced by wind and seismic forces acting on the building, withstand wind loads, and support its own dead load weight forces.

Due to objections from the Architect of the Capitol, the Hubert H. Humphrey Building is set back about 135 feet (41 m) from Independence Avenue SW so that it will not hide or compete with the view of the Rayburn House Office Building up the hill to the east. This creates a large plaza in front of the building. Because plants and trees could not be grown on the plaza due to the deleterious effects their roots would have on the tunnel below, Breuer paved the plaza with concrete and included granite-lined depressions and small granite pyramids as decorative effects. [2] In 1974, Congress passed legislation authorizing a major piece of public art to be placed at the south entrance to the Humphrey Building. [5] In 1977, James Rosati's Heroic Shore Points I, a cubic aluminum piece painted bright red, was dedicated and emplaced. [6]

Architect of the Capitol

The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is the federal agency responsible for the maintenance, operation, development, and preservation of the United States Capitol Complex, and also the head of that agency. The Architect of the Capitol is in the legislative branch and is accountable to the United States Congress and the Supreme Court.

Rayburn House Office Building congressional office building for the U.S. House of Representatives

The Rayburn House Office Building (RHOB) is a congressional office building for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C., between South Capitol Street and First Street.

James Rosati American artist

James Rosati was an American abstract sculptor.

Construction on the building began in early May 1972. [2] Congress threatened to take over the building and use it for office space for the United States House of Representatives, but instead opted to raze a block of restored 19th century homes on New Jersey Avenue SW. [1] In April 1977, as the Humphrey Building neared completion, one of the welds connecting the hanging interior walls to the roof truss cracked. The roof sagged 19 inches (48 cm), and 200 workers were evacuated from the fifth, sixth, and seventh floors. The beam was pulled back into position and rewelded into place. [7] It was dedicated on November 1, 1977. [8] The concrete work on the structure was poor in some places, with poor joints. Softball-sized chunks came loose from the concrete work shortly before the building was dedicated. [4]

United States House of Representatives lower house of the United States Congress

The United States House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the United States Congress, the Senate being the upper chamber. Together they compose the legislature of the United States.

Dedication and use

The building was originally called the South Portal Building, as it served as a sort of gate or portal to the United States Capitol complex. [1] But this was changed, and it was named for Hubert H. Humphrey, then serving as U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and previously Vice President of the United States. It was the first time a federal building had been named for a living person, [9] although at that time it was publicly known that Humphrey was terminally ill with cancer, and Humphrey died on January 13, 1978, just seventy-five days after the building was dedicated on November 1, 1977.

United States Capitol seat of the United States Congress

The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building, is the home of the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Though no longer at the geographic center of the Federal District, the Capitol forms the origin point for the District's street-numbering system and the District's four quadrants.

Minnesota State of the United States of America

Minnesota is a state in the Upper Midwest and northern regions of the United States. Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd U.S. state on May 11, 1858, created from the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory. The state has a large number of lakes, and is known by the slogan the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Its official motto is L'Étoile du Nord.

As of 2012, all of HHS's managerial and supervisory offices are contained in the building, but none of its operating divisions.

In April 2014, the General Services Administration said it would spend $6.74 million to renovate the Humphrey Building into open workspace. This would allow the Office of the Chief Information Officer to move into the structure. [10]

Related Research Articles

Central Plaza (Hong Kong) skyscraper in Hong Kong

Central Plaza is a 78-storey, 374 m (1,227 ft) skyscraper completed in August 1992 at 18 Harbour Road, in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island in Hong Kong. It is the third tallest tower in the city after 2 International Finance Centre in Central and the ICC in West Kowloon. It was the tallest building in Asia from 1992 to 1996, until the Shun Hing Square was built in Shenzhen, a neighbouring city. Central Plaza surpassed the Bank of China Tower as the tallest building in Hong Kong until the completion of 2 IFC.

Seagram Building skyscraper in New York City

The Seagram Building is a skyscraper, located at 375 Park Avenue, between 52nd Street and 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The integral plaza, building, stone faced lobby and distinctive glass and bronze exterior were designed by German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Philip Johnson designed the interior of The Four Seasons and Brasserie restaurants. Kahn & Jacobs were associate architects. Severud Associates were the structural engineering consultants. The Seagram building was completed in 1958.

Southwest (Washington, D.C.) southwestern quadrant of Washington, D.C.

Southwest is the southwestern quadrant of Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, and is located south of the National Mall and west of South Capitol Street. It is the smallest quadrant of the city. Southwest is small enough that it is frequently referred to as a neighborhood in and of itself. However, it actually contains five separate neighborhoods.

Fazlur Rahman Khan Bangladeshi architect

Fazlur Rahman Khan was a Bangladeshi-American structural engineer and architect, who initiated important structural systems for skyscrapers. Considered the "father of tubular designs" for high-rises, Khan was also a pioneer in computer-aided design (CAD). He was the designer of the Sears Tower, since renamed Willis Tower, the tallest building in the world from 1973 until 1998, and the 100-story John Hancock Center.

OCBC Centre Office building in Singapore

OCBC Centre is a 197.7 m (649 ft), 52-storey skyscraper in Singapore. serving as the current headquarters of OCBC Bank, the building was completed in 1976 and was the tallest building in the country, and South East Asia, at that time. There are two extensions, OCBC Centre South and OCBC Centre East. There is an Executive Club on one of the higher floors of the building. OCBC Centre East has food and beverage outlets.

Dallas City Hall seat of Dallas municipal government

Dallas City Hall is the seat of municipal government of the city of Dallas, Texas, United States. It is located at 1500 Marilla in the Government District of downtown Dallas. The current building, the city's fifth city hall, was completed in 1978 and replaced the Dallas Municipal Building.

140 William Street

140 William Street is a 41-storey steel, concrete and glass building located in the eastern side of the central business district of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Constructed between 1969 and 1972, BHP House was designed by the architectural practice Yuncken Freeman alongside engineers Irwinconsult, with heavy influence of contemporary skyscrapers in Chicago, Illinois. The local architects sought technical advice from Fazlur Khan of renowned American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), spending 10 weeks at their Chicago office in 1968. At the time, BHP House was known to be the tallest steel framed building and the first office building in Australia to use a “total energy concept” – the generation of its own electricity using BHP natural gas. The name BHP House came from the building being the national headquarters of the Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP) Company. BHP House has been included in the Victorian Heritage Register for significance to the State of Victoria for following three reasons:

Wells Fargo Plaza (Phoenix)

The Wells Fargo Plaza is a high-rise skyscraper located on 100 West Washington Street in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona, United States. It opened as the First National Bank Plaza on October 25, 1971, and was later known as the First Interstate Bank Building. It is 372 feet tall. It is designed in the Brutalist style, an architectural style spawned from the International Style. The “raw concrete” element of Brutalist architecture allows for no exterior finish which exposes the rough concrete columns and beams.

Fall River Government Center

Fall River Government Center is the location of the municipal government offices in the city of Fall River, Massachusetts, United States. Located at One Government Center, and constructed directly over Interstate 195, it was the first public building built over a Federal interstate highway. It replaced the city's historic 19th century city hall which had been demolished in the early 1960s as part of the construction of Interstate 195, which cuts through the center of the city's downtown area. Delayed and plagued by problems during construction, the new city hall opened in 1976. In 2008, the building and site underwent a multimillion-dollar exterior renovation.

Robert C. Weaver Federal Building office building in Washington, D.C., serving as the headquarters of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Robert C. Weaver Federal Building is a 10-story office building in Washington, D.C., owned by the federal government of the United States. Completed in 1968, it serves as the headquarters of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Built by the General Services Administration, it is a prime example of Brutalist architecture. The structure is named for Dr. Robert C. Weaver, the first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the first African American Cabinet member.

United States Tax Court Building

The United States Tax Court Building is a courthouse located at 400 Second Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C., in the Judiciary Square neighborhood. It serves as the headquarters of the United States Tax Court. Built in 1972, the building and its landscaped plaza occupy the entire block bound by D Street, E Street, Second Street, and Third street.

Strom Thurmond Federal Building and United States Courthouse government building in Columbia, South Carolina

The Strom Thurmond Federal Building and United States Courthouse is United States federal building located in Columbia, South Carolina, which was completed in 1979 and which served for twenty-five years as a courthouse of the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. It is named for long-time Senator Strom Thurmond, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Vlastimil Koubek was a Czech American architect who designed more than 100 buildings, most of them in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. When he died, he had designed buildings worth more than $2 billion. Most of his work is Modernist in style, although he developed a few structures in other vernaculars. He created the site plan for the redevelopment of Rosslyn, Virginia, and his Ames Center anchored the area's economic recovery. He also designed the World Building in Silver Spring, Maryland, which sparked redevelopment of that town's downtown and the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. amongst many other buildings. In 1985, Washingtonian magazine considered him to be one of 20 people "who in the past 20 years had the greatest impact on the way we live and who forever altered the look of Washington." In 1988, The Washington Post newspaper said his Willard Hotel renovation was one of 28 projects in the area which made a signal contribution to the "feel" and look of Washington, D.C.

Mary E. Switzer Memorial Building

The Mary E. Switzer Memorial Building is a federally owned office building located at 330 C Street SW in Washington, D.C. in the United States. The Egyptian Revival structure was originally named the Railroad Retirement Board Building. It was designed by Charles Klauder and Louis A. Simon and completed on September 15, 1940. Although intended for the Railroad Retirement Board, its first occupant was to the United States Department of War. By Act of Congress, it was renamed the Mary E. Switzer Memorial Building on October 21, 1972, becoming the first federal building to be named for a woman.

James V. Forrestal Building

The James V. Forrestal Building is a low-rise Brutalist office building located in Washington, D.C., in the United States. Originally known as Federal Office Building 5, and nicknamed the Little Pentagon, the Forrestal Building was constructed between 1965 and 1969 to accommodate United States armed forces personnel. It is named after James Forrestal, the first United States Secretary of Defense. It became the headquarters of the United States Department of Energy after that agency's creation in 1977.

Trussed Concrete Steel Company

The Trussed Concrete Steel Company was a company founded by Julius Kahn, an engineer and inventor. The company manufactured prefabricated products for reinforced concrete beams and steel forms for building reinforced concrete floors and walls. Kahn invented and patented a unique new technology reinforcement system of construction called the Kahn System that was stronger, more economical, and lighter than the existing old school technology used up to that point to construct buildings. The old method was to use plain straight smooth steel beams or loose rods or stirrups in concrete beams and floors. Kahn's new technology improved system used 45 degree tab flanges or "wings" permanently attached on steel beams that distributed the tension stress for overall improvement in strength of reinforced concrete.

Minton–Capehart Federal Building Federal building in Indianapolis, IN, USA

The Minton–Capehart Federal Building is a United States federal building in Indianapolis, Indiana, that is named in honor of former U.S. Senator and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton and former U.S. Senator Homer E. Capehart.

Araldo Cossutta American architect

Araldo Cossutta was an architect who worked primarily in the United States. From 1956 to 1973 he worked at the firm I. M. Pei & Partners. I. M. Pei is now among the most honored architects in the world. Cossutta was Pei's associate and ultimately his partner in the first phase of Pei's career. He was responsible for some of the firm's best-known designs from that era, including three that have received "landmark" designations in recent years. In 1973 he and Vincent Ponte left Pei's firm to form Cossutta & Ponte, which ultimately became Cossutta and Associates. The new firm designed the Credit Lyonnais Tower in Lyon, France (1977) and the Tower at Cityplace (1988) in Dallas, Texas, among other commissions.


  1. 1 2 3 Dewar, Helen. "House Eyes New HEW Headquarters." Washington Post. July 18, 1975.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Von Eckardt, Wolf. "Breuer's New HEW: Fine Designs, Dollar Signs." Washington Post. May 13, 1972.
  3. Moore, p. 95.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Conroy, Sarah Booth. "Marcel Breuer: The Man, the Myth, the Craft." Washington Post. November 5, 1977.
  5. Conroy, Sarah Booth. "Art Works for Federal Buildings." Washington Post. October 29, 1974.
  6. Thalacker, p. 176.
  7. "Weld of Roof Beam Cracks at HEW Site." Washington Post. April 16, 1977.
  8. Miller, p. 219.
  9. Hill and Hill, p. 119.
  10. Aitoro, Jill R. "Two Federal Buildings Poised for Makeover Under GSA Consolidation Plan." Washington Business Journal. April 22, 2014. Accessed 2014-04-22.