White House Could Mandate Classical Style for All Federal Buildings

The Trump administration prefers the Neoclassical style of buildings like the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.

2 minute read

February 5, 2020, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Neoclassical Architecture

The Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. | Lux Blue / Shutterstock

"While the country was riveted by the President’s impeachment trial, a Washington rumor was quietly bubbling about a potential executive order that, if implemented, would profoundly affect the future of federal architecture," reports Cathleen McGuigan.

But rumor gives way to substance, as McGuigan further reports that Architectural Record has obtained "what appears to be a preliminary draft of the order," which would, " require rewriting 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," according to McGuigan.

The draft executive order rebuts the kinds of designs put forward under the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence Program, according to McGuigan. "The draft document specifically cites the U.S. Federal Building in San Francisco (2007, by Morphosis), the U.S. Courthouse in Austin, Texas (2012, by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects), and the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Miami (2007, by Arquitectonica) for having 'little aesthetic appeal.'"

The U.S. Federal Building in San Francisco, designed by Morphosis and completed in 2007. (Image by Rafael Ramirez Lee, via Shutterstock)

Critics were quick to pounce on the report on Twitter. New York Times Architecture Critic Michael Kimmelman produced this scathing assessment of the idea of forcing the GSA to only build in classical style, for example:

Other architecture critics from around the country produced similarly scathing assessments of the idea. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 in Architectural Record

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