President Trump on Monday signed an executive order that establishes classical architecture as the preferred style for new federal buildings, but stops before banning new designs.
The decree, titled “Promoting Beautiful Federal Municipal Architecture”, requires federal buildings to be “beautiful” and praises the characteristics of Greco-Roman architecture; in contrast, recent modernist conceptions are described in the text as “ugly and incoherent”.
“Classical and traditional architecture, as practiced both historically and by architects today, has proven its ability to meet these design criteria and more than satisfy functional, technical and sustainable today, ”the order reads. “Their use should be encouraged rather than discouraged.”
Signed in the dying days of the Trump administration, the executive order represents a victory for traditionalists who view contemporary architecture as degraded and dehumanizing.
But many in the architectural community have criticized the imposition of a privileged style on federal construction projects. Earlier this year, groups such as the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation opposed a draft executive order that would have banned Modernist design.
The new rule was supported by the National Civic Art Society, a nonprofit group.
“President Trump is to be applauded for ushering in a literally magnificent new era in federal architecture,” said Justin Shubow, president of the nonprofit. “Reversing the modernist hegemony that has given us dismal government buildings for over 60 years, Order gives the American people what they want in the federal design.
But architects have criticized the order, although some have described it as relatively toothless.
“While we are appalled by the administration’s decision to go ahead with the design mandate, we are pleased that the order is not as ambitious as previously thought,” said Robert Ivy, chief executive officer of the American Institute of Architects, in a statement. promising that his organization would never prioritize one type of architectural design over another. The group said it would ask the incoming Biden administration to reverse the order.
New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman condemned the measure last February. “Just having this argument is humiliating,” he wrote.
Some saw order as more than an architectural style.
“The decree does not make sense,” said Reinhold Martin, professor of architecture at Columbia University. “This is an effort to use culture to send coded messages about white supremacy and political hegemony.”
The order will also update the General Service Administration selection process by requiring input from the general public and future building staff. Further updates will be recommended by a new committee of officials called the President’s Council on Improving Federal Civic Architecture.
The new rules will apply to the construction of federal courthouses and agency headquarters, government buildings in Washington, and projects over $ 50 million.
Representatives of the new Biden administration did not immediately respond to emails asking if the president-elect plans to abide by the executive order after taking office next month.