Learn about PPS's Three-pronged Approach to Drive Change
Case Studies 

Wisconsin State Capitol




Contributed by 
Project for Public Spaces
July 26, 2005
December 14, 2017

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

What makes it Great?

Why it doesn't work?

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.

Access & Linkages

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.

Comfort & Image

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.

Uses & Activities

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.

How Light?

How Quick?

How Cheap?

History & Background

Related Links & Sources

Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol

*Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.


Corrections or additions? Email info@pps.org
Related Articles & Resources

More Related Articles

Learn about PPS's Three-pronged Approach to Drive Change