Donald Trump decreed Monday that all new federal buildings in the United States must be “beautiful,” in a long-awaited executive order that criticized architectural modernism but fell short of requiring all such projects to be classical in style.
Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger said the request was “mostly symbolic” and “just a shot. [for Trump] to throw another grenade on its way to the door ”.
When a draft of the order first appeared in February, critics reacted with horror to his promise to “make federal buildings beautiful again” by demanding a return to “classical architectural style.”
Both the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation opposed, while Goldberger told The Guardian that the problem “was not with classical architecture per se,” but that “the mandate of an official style is not entirely compatible with the liberal style of the 21st century. ” democracy”.
Ten months later, and with the end of Trump’s term in sight, the final order arrived.
His text extols examples of classic US public architecture, including “the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, the Pioneer Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, and the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse In New York”.
“In Washington DC,” he adds, “classic buildings like the White House, the Capitol building, the Supreme Court, the Treasury Department and the Lincoln Memorial have become iconic symbols of our system of government.”
He also regrets the buildings built after the 1950s, “from the simplest to the even designs [the General Services Administration] now admits that many in the public found it unattractive. “
“Encouraging classical and traditional architecture does not preclude the use of most other styles of architecture where appropriate,” the order says. “However, care must be taken to ensure that all federal building designs command the general public’s respect for their beauty and visual embodiment of America’s ideals.”
Saying that the GSA must seek public and staff input on designs, the order also establishes a “President’s Council to Improve Federal Civic Architecture,” intended to monitor, if not prohibit, any federal projects “that differ from the preferred architecture established in … this order. ” , including brutalist or deconstructivist architecture or any design derived from or related to this type of architecture ”.
Given his career in real estate developments marked by a love for gold, gilding, black marble and baroque excess, without forgetting the brutal treatment of beloved old buildings, Trump’s professed love of classicism has attracted critical comments.
Some federal projects in neoclassical style have been initiated But Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20 could spell the end of Trump’s attempt to put “beautiful” buildings on order.
Monday, Goldberger wrote on Twitter: “This is weakened from the original proposal and, in any case, is mostly symbolic, just an opportunity to throw another grenade on its way to the door. I don’t think it means much. And unlike last minute pardons, the next administration can mitigate or reverse their impact. “
Before the order was issued, a Democratic member of Congress, Dina Titus of Nevada, legislation introduced to stop the GSA blocking modernist designs.
“The imposition of a preferred architectural style for federal facilities goes against our nation’s democratic traditions,” Titus said in a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, reported by Bloomberg News.
“Attempting to implement this misguided Washington DC mandate by circumventing Congress and destroying decades of GSA policies and practices without any public notice or hearing is even worse.”
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