A return to the classical style of architecture, gracing the oldest federal buildings in Washington and in many other cities across the country, is being urged by a group called the National Civic Art Society.
The Washington-based NCAS is a nonprofit organization promoting what is defined as the “classical tradition,” not only in architecture, but also in the arts in general.
The group has taken off against modern government structures built mostly in the last half century, which it says rejects “traditional standards of beauty and harmony.”
The movement has now won the support of the Trump Administration as seen in a draft of an executive order declaring that “Federal architecture should once again inspire respect instead of bewilderment or repugnance.”
If the order should become law, it would update the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture written in 1962, and would require that all new federal public buildings costing more than $50 million must adapt a classical architectural style.
The move has sparked the opposition of a number of professional architecture organizations, including the American Institute of Architects which says that building design decisions “should be left to the designer and the community, not bureaucrats in Washington.”
In an open letter to the Trump Administration, the AIA further argues that “all architectural styles have value and all communities have the right to weigh in on the government buildings meant to serve them.”
Writing for the website Salon, Kai Gutschow, a professor of architecture with Carnegie Mellon University, said the classical style “doesn’t always symbolize democratic ideas of self-government.”
“Dictators, plutocrats and autocrats have long used the classical style to connect the grandeur of the Roman empire to their own power,” continued Gutschow. “Hitler, Stalin and King Jong-II all favored classically inspired buildings.”
But author Andrew Ferguson, writing in the Atlantic, noted: “After World War II, the federal government adopted modernism in its many variations as a kind of house architectural style, and as a consequence has managed to build a very large number of unlovely buildings.”
According to sources, the executive order draft is currently in the initial stages of development, with no time frame set for when it will be officially announced.
By Garry Boulard
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