A draft of an executive order called “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” would establish a classical style, inspired by Greek and Roman architecture, as the default for federal buildings in Washington and many throughout the country, discouraging modern design. News of the draft first appeared in the Architectural Record.
The seven-page draft executive order asserts that the federal government since the 1950s has “largely stopped building beautiful buildings that the American people want to look at or work in.” Instead “Classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style,” he states. This order would explicitly discourage some modern forms of architecture such as the Brutalist-influenced Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue whose appearance Mr. Trump has criticized.
If a style other than classical is proposed for a project, the order establishes a high bar for getting approval: it would establish a presidential “re-beautification” committee to review designs and would still give the White House final say.
The hope among the order’s authors is to put it in front of the President as soon as next month.
The proposed executive order has already drawn fierce opposition from architects who say it would have a dampening effect on architectural thought and give President Trump broad power to make aesthetic appraisals, something critics say he knows nothing about. Benjamin Forgey, the former architecture critic for The Washington Post, called the order “profoundly mischievous,” and said it would eliminate the ability of architects to consider contemporary design and context when creating new government spaces.
Architects have regarded Mr. Trump, a former real estate developer who keeps close watch over his family’s portfolio of luxury properties, with a certain degree of wariness since he took office. His design style at his personal properties favors gilded furniture, marble flooring, and Louis XIV-style flourishes.
Shortly after Mr. Trump’s election, the American Institute of Architects pledged to work with him on proposed infrastructure projects, before abruptly withdrawing that pledge after encountering a backlash.