The US Supreme Court building Via USCourt Flickr
An executive order drafted by the Trump administration under the title “Make Federal Buildings Great Again” would require that “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style” for new government buildings, according to the publication Architectural Record. The proposed order has been criticised by architectural experts and would fly in the face of the US government's existing Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, which explicitly state that “an official style must be avoided” and that “design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government, and not vice versa”.
The governments architecture guidelines were written in 1962 by the late politician and scholar Daniel Patrick Moynihan. “Moynihan was the most architecturally knowledgeable and sophisticated person with a high position in our federal government since Thomas Jefferson,” says the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger. “He knew that the minute you mandate a style, theres a death to creativity.” Golderberger, who has served multiple times as a juror for the Richard H. Driehaus Prize at the University of Notre Dame—one of the highest honours for a living architect whose work embodies the “ideals of traditional and classical architecture”—said that the order “distorts, eliminates and contradicts the principles that Moynihan had in mind”.
Many policies that were seeing now seem to be about exclusion, and now its in the realm of architecture. Its a terrible mistake and its inconsistent with an enlightened, liberal democracy.
According to the Record, the drafted order says that US Federal buildings have too often been “influenced by Brutalism and Deconstructivism,” explicitly naming several federal buildings designed by contemporary architects that have “little aesthetic appeal”. These include the US Federal Building in San Francisco by Morphosis, the US Courthouse in Austin, Texas by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects and the US Courthouse in Miami by Arquitectonica. The FBIs Brutalist headquarters in Washington, DC, which sit directly across from the capitals Trump International Hotel, have been a persistent grievance for the president in the past.
The news of the executive order comes on the heels of the sudden resignation last week of David Insinga, the director of the General Service Administrations Design Excellence Program in the Office of the Chief Architect, which oversees federal buildings.
Miamis Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. U.S. Courthouse by Arquitectonica Courtesy Arquitectonica
The American Institute of Architects issued a statement opposing a mandate for a uniform style, saying: “Architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nations diverse places, thought, culture and climates. Architects are committed to honoring our past as well as reflecting our future progress, protecting the freedom of thought and expression that are essential to democracy.” The organisation also launched a campaign urging the public to email president Trump asking him to change his mind. “Federal buildings should incorporate local design preferences to reflect the fundamental truth that our government is not beholden to just the whims of the Capital region but is of, by, and for the people whom it serves,” the email template reads.
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