Capitol Square, the 4-acre home to Virginia’s most prominent government buildings and the historic State Capitol, is “technically a trapezoid,” a leading geometric expert said today.

“I mean I don’t want to split hairs here, but I’m surprised you guys never figured this out,” said Virginia Commonwealth University math professor Ian J. Haley, drawing a red line (pictured above) around the four streets that comprise what he calls the Capitol Trapezoid.  “That thing is clearly a four sided figure, but it only has one pair of parallel sides.”

“Unlike a square, which has two pairs of parallel sides,” Haley added.  “Duh.”

While the professor noted that the term “square” can also be defined as the center of town or a “plaza of sorts,” Haley dismissed such a notion as nonsense when referring to Capitol Square, established more than 200 years ago.

“The fact is, those responsible for upkeep of Capitol Square have been misrepresenting this venerable plot of land for decades,” Haley said.  “Tourists, including school kids, have been visiting this so-called ‘Square’ for as long as anyone can remember, only to realize now that there was never any symmetry to it all.”

The mathematical discovery sent shockwaves throughout the world of Virginia geometry, causing experts to re-measure several iconic city and state shapes that make coordinate-specific claims in their names.  Late yesterday, after mathematicians found that its ratio of circumference to diameter was indeed 3.14, or Pi, Monument Avenue’s Stuart Circle was confirmed as such.

Farther east, Haley called Virginia’s Historic Triangle – Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg – a “complete farce of spacial-relativity proportions,” as it is not possible to drive, fly or even walk from one place to the other in a fully-straight line.

As of press time, Haley said experts had still not taken official measurements of the Pentagon.


10 Comments so far

  1. JY on November 19, 2009 10:41 am

    Would’ve felt more better if it were a rhombus.

  2. Heather on November 19, 2009 11:04 am

    Thanks for pointing this out. A math professor has nothing else better to do with his time!

  3. bcarr on November 19, 2009 12:04 pm

    Pi is 3.14… Or is this some sort of inference on VCU professors? :p

  4. tobaccoavenue on November 19, 2009 1:34 pm

    By way of striving for absolute perfection I will change it to 3.14 in the story, however I will keep your comment so people know that sometimes, this Web site gets it wrong.

  5. Gil In Mechanicsville on November 20, 2009 6:19 am

    Gee, and I thought it was called the Capitol Nerd. Now we will have to start calling it something else, like the Fonz because it has a way cool shape….

  6. bcarr on November 20, 2009 11:23 am

    Well, by all means: strive for perfection. :)

  7. Christine B on November 20, 2009 12:10 pm

    you crack me up! very, very funny stuff.

  8. Gil In Mechanicsville on November 21, 2009 7:56 am

    Upon further review… You may be onto something, while we often hear of phrases like “The Golden Triangle” never is and area referred to as the “Golden Trapezoid”. You may be onto a novel marketing idea and the next cool catch phrase…

  9. Jake on November 23, 2009 4:12 pm

    This is an interesting example of early political spin when a 1786 poll conducted by Ye Olde Harris Interactive/Time/CNN public opinion surveys showed that more voters preferred squares to trapezoids on account of a trapezoid sounded “all pretentiousy or whatever”.

  10. Christian on November 30, 2009 1:58 pm

    the word pentagon isnt pretentious at all. good thing, too, because governors street bends at east grace street to form a 5th corner! aaaugh! pandemonium! maybe we should just wall off any part of capital hill which does not fit the square shape, such as the governor’s mansion.

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