President Trump Wants to Make ‘Federal Buildings Beautiful Again’ With a New Executive Order That Echoes Fascist History

The leaked order declares that “classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style.”

In a new executive order that’s quickly drawing comparisons to fascist ideology, President Trump plans to re-integrate “our national values into Federal buildings.”

Titled “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” the order seeks to rewrite the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture to ensure that the “classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style” for new buildings, according to Architectural Record, which obtained a draft of the document.

The order denounces the quality of architecture since the Guiding Principles were first issued in 1962 by former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and cites Brutalism and Deconstructivism as examples. It specifically calls out the US Federal Building in San Francisco, the US Courthouse in Austin, and the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. US Courthouse in Miami in particular for having “little aesthetic appeal.”

The San Francisco Federal Building, designed by Thom Maybe of Morphosis.

Trump’s new order would directly contradict Moynihan’s principles, which suggests that the “development of an official style must be avoided.” Instead, design “must flow from the architectural profession to the Government and not vice versa,” the current Guiding Principles state.

Critics quickly pointed out how the order recalls similar mandates by fascist leaders like Mussolini and Hitler, who each turned to classical aesthetics as a way of promoting nationalism. (Similarly, classical sculpture has been adopted as a symbol for white supremacists, crypto-fascists, and other far-right groups throughout history.)

The Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Following the report, the American Institute of Architects issued a statement condemning the order“The AIA strongly opposes uniform style mandates for federal architecture,” it read. “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 thought and expression that are essential to democracy.”

Under Trump’s order, a Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture would be convened to oversee the creation of new federal buildings. Among other members, the committee would include the commissioner of the General Service Administration’s Public Building Service and at least one member of the US Commission of Fine Arts, to be chosen by Trump.

Since 2018, Trump has added three classicists to the seven-person commission, which approves architecture and design in Washington, DC.

The leak of the order comes just a week after David Insinga, the chief architect and director of the General Service Administration’s Design Excellence Program, which oversees the “federal built environment,” abruptly resigned his post. 

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