|Idaho Senate, 2010/Stapilus|
The Idaho Statehouse almost looks like a newborn, even has that "new house" scent to it. If you're used to the old version, before the rehabilitation which has taken the last couple of years, it looks better - brighter, more open, roomier (and not just in the new underground add-ons). It rates a clear thumbs up.
Walk onto the old ground floor and it feels clean but barren: No artwork or much else down there. Yet. It may be coming.
The third and fourth floors, the main legislative area with the chamber floors, has been changed most dramatically. The hallway around the four-floor overlook of the House chamber now is glassed-in, instead of dark-walled off; the effect is one of openness and light. (And maybe fewer dark corners for lobbyists and legislators to do their thing.) The new curtains in the Senate, reminiscent of those from many years ago, look classy. The new elements of the design strike a fine balance between traditional and modern.
The biggest specific asset to the public is the new meeting rooms, for committees and other activities, on under underground level. You had to have seen the old statehouse to appreciate how large an improvement this is. Those old meeting rooms were tiny, cramming in too many people and not allowing many in at all. The new rooms have space for large audiences and are audio- and video-wired as well. They compare respectably with the facilities in Washington and Oregon. And a good deed by omission: The designers seem not to have closed off public access to areas of the statehouse, something they probably got some pressure to do.
There are of course downsides. Legislators have individual offices now, scattered all over the building; your favorite (or least) lawmaker will be harder to find now. (One reporter I bumped into this morning bemoaned exactly this.) Keep on the floor, at their desks right there, where we can keep an eye on 'em.
But the few criticisms feel like niggling. This is being taken by the habitues as a fine improvement, and for good reason. The cost was high (well over the $100 million this scribe was once excoriated for predicting), but the end result will be a site Idahoans have good reason to be happy with.