Dec. 22 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order establishing classical architecture as the preferred style for federal buildings in Washington, D.C.
The order does not explicitly mandate that buildings be constructed in classical style, rather stating that they should be “beautiful” and establishes a “Council for Improving Federal Civic Architecture” to recommend updates to guidelines from the General Services Administration.
“Applicable federal public buildings should uplift and beautify public spaces, inspire the human spirit, ennoble the United States and command respect from the general public,” the order states. “They should also be visually identifiable as civic buildings and, as appropriate, respect regional architectural heritage.”
In the order, Trump criticized the GSA’s Design Excellence Program, saying it has “often selected designs by prominent architects with little regard for input or regional aesthetic preferences.”
“The resulting federal architecture sometimes impresses the architectural elite, but not the American people who the buildings are meant to serve,” he said. “Many of these new federal buildings are not even visibly identifiable as civic buildings.”
Under the new order, the GSA will be required to seek design input from the general public and future staff of federal buildings before selecting a design.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., sent a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy opposing the administration’s decision to implement a shared classic architectural design among federal buildings.
“Imposing a preferred architectural style for federal facilities runs counter to our nation’s democratic traditions,” Titus wrote. “Attempting to implement this misguided mandate from Washington, D.C., by circumventing Congress and gutting decades of GSA policy and practice without any public notice or hearing is even worse.”
An earlier version of the executive order that would have placed an explicit ban on modernist design was condemned by the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture and climates,” the AIA said. “Architects are committed to honoring our past as well as reflecting our future progress, protecting the freedom of thought and expression that are essential to democracy.”