Should Classical Architecture be Required?

Below is my note to Donald Trump responding to his administration’s efforts to require “classical architecture” for new federal buildings.  This is my edited version of the AIA’s suggested response.  Here is a link where YOU can respond in your own way.

The Treasury Building, Washington DC

Dear President Donald Trump,

I just learned that a draft executive order is circulating among White House staff that, if signed by you, would officially designate “classical” architecture as the preferred style of all federal courthouses, all federal public buildings in the Capital region, and all other federal public buildings whose cost exceeds $50 million.

I strongly oppose this policy to promote any one style of architecture for federal buildings across the country.

Buildings should reflect their times and their surroundings. We live differently than we used to back when building classical buildings was appropriate.

1) We have different needs than we used to: Classical designs don’t respond easily to our requirement today for open, flexible, light-filled, accessible space.

2) We build now in different ways than we used to: Construction methods have changed along with the materials that architects now employ. Classical detailing used to reflect the reality of construction but it does so no longer.

3) Architectural designs should reflect their context: Classical architecture has tremendous value, but so do other architectural styles. Depending on the needs of the community—including regional preferences, topography, weather, the style of surrounding buildings, the history of the community—a different approach may be much more appropriate.

Communities can decide for themselves what style of building best evokes the sense of respect for the law and pride that the executive order seeks to invoke.

I urge you to reject this draft executive order and not continue to pursue any policy change that would replace local input for Washington bureaucrats within the design process.

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