The Biden administration has announced the revocation of former US president Donald Trump’s executive order that called for federal buildings to be built in the classical architectural style.
Called ‘Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture’, the executive order was signed by Trump in December 2020 following his electoral loss. Trump’s aversion to modernist buildings, which he called ‘ugly’, ‘undistinguished’ and ‘uninspiring’, was behind the move to restore traditional architecture to federal buildings.
The proposal to mandate traditional architecture in all new federal buildings was first mooted in early 2020. However, the order only stated a preference for classical architecture and did not ban modernist styles.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) came out strongly against Trump’s ‘beautiful architecture’ order, stating that it “dictates an architectural style preference for federal courthouses and certain other federal buildings to be mandated by government agencies. The order attempts to promote ‘classical’ and ‘traditional’ architecture above other design styles.”
AIA members had also opposed the proposal earlier in February 2020 with over 11,000 letters sent to the White House condemning “the mandated designation of ‘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”.
With president Biden’s revocation of the executive order, AIA president Peter Exley says, “By overturning this order, the Biden administration has restored communities with the freedom of design choice that is essential to designing federal buildings that best serve the public.
“This is fundamental to an architect’s process and to achieving the highest quality buildings possible. We look forward to continuing to work with the administration towards developing policies that create healthy, just and equitable communities."