Recent rumors, very widely reported - I call them rumors because they involve both politics and news, and these days we should check our gut reactions until we have more evidence of their veracity - indicate people who influence the President are drafting an executive order to require that federal buildings default to a classical style. Article:https://tinyurl.com/smjrs6c The actual draft: https://lnkd.in/ey2qgWN This comes hot on the heels of President Trump's insult to the profession of architecture - for the first time ever, the Architect of the Capitol is NOT an architect, but an airport engineer.
Ironically, the same draft order seeks to form a President’s Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture. I think we can all agree that not all federal architecture is beautiful, but doubt if we can agree on specific examples. The two examples (see pics in sidebar) that seem to have agitated this group into trying to order the rest of the country around are good examples of buildings architects stereotypically enjoy while others may not - which is an issue the profession needs to work on - but one can find plenty of poorly executed classical works too, a few of which are also in the sidebar. Committees and review boards seem like a good way to decrease the number of truly bad works, but I haven't found one yet that yields the best works either - committees tend to approve B+ and A- quality, and scare away A+ efforts.
While the guiding principles of GSA's Design Excellence Program should be periodically should be refinedhttps://tinyurl.com/quylb7e , it seems that as long as we have an evolving and multi-faceted democracy, Principal #2 should be cast in stone, "The development of an official style must be avoided". The very writing of this draft order makes some of us wonder whether the President's team believes in our democracy or seeks to dictate their own values upon us.
The AIA has made it easy for you to email your own opinion to the White House at this link https://p2a.co/eH3Mx8N; I encourage you to replace their default text with your own message. Here is mine, trying to keep it short for Presidential focus:
DO NOT designate any preferred style federal buildings. The values of liberty and freedom espoused by this nation, and particularly by its conservative wing, are best expressed by allowing a range of architectural expression.
DO work towards more beautiful buildings. Start by showing that it matters to you by increasing the design budgets & expectations, and by having a national dialogue about the true meaning of beauty - an expression of our values that elevates us from our circumstances.
DO encourage architecture that is uniquely AMERICAN and site-specific, not adopted from other regimes or trends.
STOP BIG GOVERNMENT and let communities design for themselves. Encourage a participatory design process for federal buildings.