Why is the Pentagon pentagonal?

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One of benefits of being me is that I have the sort of random thoughts that other people can generally only experience during some kind of medical experiment involving the injection of highly concentrated THC directly into the brain. For example, when drifting off to sleep the other night, it occurred to me to ask: why is the Pentagon pentagonal?

Huh. Why is it? That can’t be the cheapest design for a building in wartime.
A short getting-out-of-bed-instead-of-sleeping later, I was much more knowledgeable about mid-20th-Century civil planning projects than I had been before.

From Wikipedia:

Its unusual shape results from the fact that its originally intended site, Arlington Farms, fronted on Arlington Ridge Road and the Arlington Memorial Bridge approach, which intersected at an angle of approximately 108 degrees (the angle of a regular pentagon). President Franklin D. Roosevelt had it constructed at its current location because he didn’t want the new building to obstruct the view of Washington, D.C. from Arlington Cemetery.

In fact, Arlington Ridge Road no longer exists, its route now mostly replaced by Eisenhower Drive, which winds through an expanded Arlington National Cemetery and terminates near the original site. The Pentagon was constructed as planned, just somewhat south of its intended location.

4 Responses to “Why is the Pentagon pentagonal?”

  1. irakli

    Also — according to people who believe in the conspiracy theories, the shape was chosen because pentagram has sacral meaning for Freemasons. Some believe US is run by Freemasons :)

    Not sure how I feel about the conspiracy theory but I could buy the argument that the architect of Pentagon put certain symbolic meaning in using pentagram shape.

    You have to agree that Wikipedia version — the shape was motivated purely by Geographical constraints, does not make sense, either.

  2. Catherine Omega

    Well, okay… let’s say the OFFICIAL reason the Pentagon is pentagonal then.

    I don’t know, I buy it, but it doesn’t seem like the architects were constrained geographically so much as they found a way a way to do something interesting with the design of a horrible monolithic government building in the middle of the biggest war in the history of the world. It’s not like they had the freedom to go all Frank Gehry on it. :)

    (Plus, it leads to the much catchier name “The Pentagon” instead of “The War Department Administration Building”!)

  3. readyjack

    Everyone knows that the pentagon was designed to magickly contain the demon Yog-Sothoth after it was captured from the Nazis in the early stages of WWII. Unfortunately said demon escaped when the walls were breached by a cruise missile on Sep. 11th 2001 and much of the current unrest in the world stems from that occasion.