It was 8:49 on Tuesday evening when an email notification came across my phone. I was watching a movie but decided I’d see what the email had to say. It was from a colleague regarding an article in the Architectural Record. The article by Cathleen McGuigan (editor-in-chief of Architectural Record) was about a preliminary draft of an executive order rewriting the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture (a document written by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and issued in 1962 that mandates Federal architecture standards). According to Architectural Record, the new Guiding Principles will be rewritten and will be called “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.”1
“Is this real life?” I caught myself asking aloud.
The original Guiding Principles outlined that federal buildings “must provide visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American government,” and that, “an official style must be avoided.”2 According to Sarah Dodge, AIA Senior Vice President, Advocacy and Relationships, in an email requesting action, “the draft circulating for consideration by White House officials would officially designate “classical” architecture as the preferred style for federal courthouses, federal public buildings in the [Capitol] region, and all other federal public building whose cost exceeds $50 million dollars.” She goes on to say that the drafted document, “specifically prohibits the use of “Brutalist” architecture or its derivatives.”
Whether or not this order comes to fruition is yet to be seen; but it poses some concerning questions about the role of the designer and the standards imposed on them by the government. The AIA has responded quickly. They issued the following statement in the article, “The AIA strongly opposes uniform style mandates for federal architecture. Architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture and climates. Architects are committed to honoring our past as well as reflecting our future progress, protecting the freedom of though and expression that are essential to democracy.”
Concerned? Act Now
Click here to email President Trump (Link from AIA)
Let’s Talk About This
While I am still forming thoughts on this topic, it is important to shed some light on the potential issue as soon as possible and use this platform to start the conversation:
- Should the government dictate style guidelines to designers of federal buildings?
- How do these revised guidelines impact the hiring process of architectural firms?
- What does this mean for the architecture profession?
- Where do we draw the line? Will federal buildings be the only type of building with style restrictions?
Please use the comments section below to tell us your thoughts.
- Architectural Record: Will the White House Order New Federal Architecture To Be Classical?
- GSA Design Guiding Principles
- Image: Wikipedia Commons Jpeg
Since graduating from Kansas State in 2012, Liz has gained experience from a variety of fields within the building industry. From drafting at a metal building manufacturer to working at architecture firms to assisting a real estate broker/developer, she has always had a passion for influencing the built environment. As an architect-in-training at MSH Architects, Liz enjoys learning new things and refining her skills with help from other licensed professionals. She is pursuing an architectural license and hopes to continue to shape the spaces and places around her in a positive way.