Trump Signs Executive Order Demanding ‘Beautiful’ Federal Architecture
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday to ensure that federal buildings feature “beautiful” architecture, expressing his preference for classical architecture, although not explicitly stating what standards buildings must meet.
Classical architecture, according to the order, is defined as “the architectural tradition derived from the forms, principles and vocabulary of the architecture of Greek and Roman antiquity” and that “encompasses such styles as Neoclassical, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Beaux-Arts and Art Deco.”
The order applies to all federal courthouses, agency headquarters, D.C. public buildings and all other public buildings costing more than $50 million.
Trump has revealed strong opinions in the past on official buildings he deems stylish or not.
“Wish I could share with everyone the beauty and majesty of being in the White House and looking outside at the snow filled lawns and Rose Garden,” he tweeted last year. “Really is something – SPECIAL COUNTRY, SPECIAL PLACE!”
Arguing that some Founding Father’s “attached great importance to Federal civic architecture, the order states that “the Federal Government largely replaced traditional designs for new construction with modernist ones” in the 1950s and 60s.
The executive order also states that “the Federal architecture that ensued, overseen by the General Services Administration (GSA), was often unpopular with Americans. The new buildings ranged from the undistinguished to designs even GSA now admits many in the public found unappealing.”
A President’s Council will be created, under the order, to improve Federal Civic Architecture. The council is tasked with submitting a report to the GSA administrator recommending updates to GSA’s policies and procedures to incorporate the new architecture guidelines.
Some architects are already resisting the order in place, the American Institute of Architects issuing a statement Monday that they are “unequivocally opposed,” but expressing relief that the order was not as powerful as expected.
“Communities should have the right and responsibility to decide for themselves what architectural design best fits their needs, and we look forward to working with President-Elect Biden to ensure that,” said the group’s CEO, Robert Ivy. “Though we are appalled with the administration’s decision to move forward with the design mandate, we are happy the order isn’t as far reaching as previously thought.”
The codification of a specific federal style has varied over the years. In 1962, Former New York Sen. Daniel Moynihan wrote Guiding Principle of Federal Architecture, which became the basis for the GSA’s Design Excellence Program.
“The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government,” Moynihan wrote in his guidelines, “and not vice versa.”
Trump’s order however derided Moynihan’s established protocol, stating that it “has not met his goal.”
Prior to becoming president in 2016, Trump expressed his dissatisfaction with the appearance of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“The cheap 12 inch sq. marble tiles behind speaker at UN always bothered me,” he tweeted in 2012. “I will replace with beautiful large marble slabs if they ask me.”