Wisconsin State Capitol

Downtown Square
Madison, WI

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

A public building that doubles as a town square where citizens rub shoulders with their elected officials.

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Why It Works

This is truly the town square that early Americans imagined as the crux of democracy. Sitting on a hill, the building itself is a bit removed from the street, but the pathways up to the capitol provide more congenial spaces for people to sit and talk. It's an inspiring building done in a neo-classical style, rich with beautiful stone on the interior, but with subtle undertones of art nouveau and Wisconsin's native Prairie-style. Striking to look at on the outside, it is warm and inviting within.

What Makes Wisconsin State Capitol a Great Place?

Situated in a square at the heart of downtown Madison, this beautiful building is actually a major intersection in town--the place where the pedestrian extensions of major streets meet. It actually offers the shortest walking route between the University of Wisconsin campus and the commercial heart of downtown Madison.

While there is some seating, it functions more as a street corner. The architectural grandeur and beautiful stone make you want to stop and soak in the essence of the place. An information desk, well-stocked with pamphlets about the building and local area, is well situated to make you feel that you belong in this place.

Besides being the seat of the Wisconsin state legislature and Supreme Court, it also functions like the best streetcorners anywhere--as a place for people to bump into one another and stop for a chat as they go out about their business.

I can think of no other spot in the world that offers better opportunities for everyday citizens to rub shoulder with their elected officials.

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