Along with “Make America Great Again,” President Trump is unofficially putting out a new slogan for another great idea. He is going to “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” Trump is working with builders and renovators to bring back “the classical architectural style.” The executive order has already been put into place, and a copy is in the Architectural Records possession.
The executive order states, “The White House would require a rewrite of the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, issued in 1962, to ensure that ‘the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style’ for new and upgraded federal buildings.”
Low and behold, there are critics, even within the architects of buildings who have to bash our president. Pulitzer prize-winner Paul Goldberger said there was a problem with the executive order but “not with the classical architecture per se.” Goldberger claims, “The mandating of an official style is not fully compatible with 21st-century liberal democracy.”
At the time, the Guiding Principles were designed for President John F Kennedy and written by a New York Senator who passed away in 2003, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. His version states all new buildings should be in accordance to be modernized.
Moynihan wrote, “Design must flow from the architectural profession to the government and not vice-versa. The government should be willing to pay some additional cost to avoid excessive uniformity in the design of federal buildings.”
The American Planning Association’s website says Moynihan’s work, “The cornerstone of the General Services Administration [GSA] Design Excellence Program.” The APA’s website continued to say it “elevated attention to design and the integration of planning, architecture, public art and the landscape into a public realm of beauty and utility.”
From President Trump’s background in Real Estate for almost 50 years, no one expected Trump to go from commercial buildings having the standards in steel and glass to using the classical style buildings. He is not a fan of using the classical style with his buildings, but when it comes to the US federal buildings, it’s a different story.
When we look back to the late 18th century, the federal buildings in Washington, DC were designed by the founders of America “embraced the classical models of ‘democratic Athens’ and ‘republican Rome…’ because the style symbolized the new nation’s ‘self-governing ideals.”
Many would explain Trump’s vision with the new Executive Order comes from the love he holds within his heart for America and what America stands for. Neoclassicism was dominant in the 1800s, but the Architectural Records stands behind the president.
The Record stated within the draft order, the GSA Design Excellence Program is criticized “for its failure to re-integrate ‘our national values into federal buildings’, which have too often been influenced by brutalism and deconstructivism.”
Just a few examples of today’s modern buildings, the US federal building in San Francisco, California, which was built in 2007, the US courthouse built in Austin, Texas in 2012, and the Wilkie D Ferguson Jr US courthouse, which is in Miami, Florida, built-in 2007, are criticized for having “little aesthetic appeal.”
The Record reassured everyone that the draft order they hold has the words in it used by Moynihan, which state, “dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability.” It avoids using the original terms of “brutalism” and “deconstructivism” because it “fails to satisfy these requirements and shall not be used.”
Goldberger argues the statement with no backing, only questioning. He stated, “Moynihan was the most important officer of the federal government since Thomas Jefferson. The Trump order appears to twist and contort his language to do precisely what he warned against.
Goldberger added, he feels it would “frighten” the administration to toss out the idea at the time of funding. He is unsure if the administration will embrace the change back to the old style.
There is one of the new federal office buildings in Washington, DC, which everyone is waiting to see unveiled. The designer Frank Gehry came up with a memorial to the late President Eisenhower. This unveiling will make or break the idea of the classical style buildings.
Perhaps, President Trump had a sneak peek at the new building. Who knows? Either way, it is sad that an argument has to come up about structures and their designs of modern or classical. Everything President Trump tries to do good for the American people, even to enjoy something, the critics will always scoff at him. People who love art will appreciate it no matter what the critics say.