Will Trump Make Architecture Great Again?

AIA issues letter to Trump opposing his Bizarre Plan to “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again”

by Rossana Vinci
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The American Institute of Architects (AIA) learned several months ago that there is a draft executive order being circulated by the Trump Administration for consideration by agency officials that would officially designate “classical” architecture as the preferred style of all U.S. federal courthouses.


The draft executive order defines “classical architectural style” to mean architectural features derived from classical Greek and Roman architecture. There are some allowances for “traditional architectural style” which is defined to mean classical architecture along with Gothic, Romanesque, and Spanish colonial. The draft executive order specifically prohibits the use of Brutalist architecture, or its derivatives, in any circumstance.


Except for Brutalism, there is some language in the draft executive order that would allow for other architectural styles to be used. However, the high bar required to satisfy the process described within the executive order would all but restrict the ability to design the federal buildings under this order in anything but the preferred style.


Last 6 February (AIA) President Jane Frederick, FAIA, and (AIA) EVP/Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA, issued the following letter to the President of the United States opposing an executive order.


It starts like:

“The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is writing this letter to express its strong and unequivocal opposition to the draft executive order circulating within your Administration to mandate a federal style of architecture. The order, as it now stands, would dictate a specific architectural style for federal courthouses and certain other federal buildings, to be mandated by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C...

The AIA, and its 95,000 members, works to advance our nation’s quality of life and protect the public’s health, safety and welfare through design, as it has done for 160 years. We always work with the communities to assess the most appropriate architecture for projects within those communities. A onesize-fits-all mandate simply ignores needed input from impacted parties.

“As we discussed in our meeting in January, the AIA has serious concerns about the rationale behind this draft order. As currently written, this order would officially designate “classical” architecture as the preferred style for all U.S. federal courthouses. That restriction would also apply to all federal public buildings in the Capital region and all other federal public buildings whose costs exceed $50 million in modern dollars.”


To conclude:

“President Trump, this draft order is antithetical to giving the “people” a voice and would set an extremely harmful precedent. It thumbs its nose at societal needs, even those of your own legacy as a builder and promoter of contemporary architecture. Our society should celebrate the differences that develop across space and time. AIA remains staunchly opposed to this proposed Executive Order. Please ensure that this order is not finalized or executed.”




  • David Griffith

    From the AIA's letter: "A onesize-fits-all mandate simply ignores needed input from impacted parties". Unfortunately, it's the AIA and its members who usually impose a "onesize-fits-all mandate" when designing public buildings in this country. I don't know that Trump's approach is the right way to go about bringing more beauty to this country's federal buildings. But I do know that the AIA's desire to dictate to the public architectural taste has left us with some ghastly structures.

  • Thies Schaper

    Germany 1933 -1945 again. Anything not classic was included in regular public exhibitions by the theme of "Entartete Kunst" (De-railed / Non artistic Art)