The Pentagon

THE PENTAGON....Why is the Pentagon a pentagon? Short answer: it was originally intended to be built on a pentagonally shaped piece of land, so a pentagon was what fit. It got moved later, but the shape stayed:
The original rationale for Bergstrom's pentagonal design was gone. The building no longer would be constructed on the five-sided Arlington Farm site. Yet the chief architect and his team continued with plans for a pentagon at the new location. There was no time to change them.

Besides, the pentagon design still worked. Like a circle, a pentagon would create shorter walking distances within the building — 30 to 50 percent less than in a rectangle, architects calculated — but its lines and walls would be straight and, therefore, much easier to build. The move from the odd-shaped Arlington Farm site freed the architects from the need to make the building asymmetrical. The advantages gained — a smoother pedestrian flow, better space arrangement, and easier distribution of utilities around the building — "proved startling," the architects concluded.
I knew none of this history, so this was pretty interesting to me. Including a map that showed the entire area, with both old and new sites, would have been pretty darn helpful, though. Maybe it was in the print edition.

Anyway, it turns out that a lot of people didn't like the whole pentagon idea, but in the end FDR overruled them:
"You know, gentlemen, I like that pentagon-shaped building," Roosevelt said. "You know why?"

"No," the commissioners replied resignedly.

"I like it because nothing like it has ever been done that way before."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is vintage Franklin Roosevelt. Go spend a dime on something in his memory.

  • CBSNews