- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2020

President Trump, a builder at heart, issued an executive order Monday aimed at stopping the federal government from building ugly buildings.

Decrying “modernist” government buildings that he said appeal mainly to the “architectural elite,” Mr. Trump is creating a “President’s Council on Improving Federal Civic Architecture.”

Its goal over two years will be to encourage more classical building designs and to discourage “brutalist” designs.

With a few exceptions such as federal court buildings in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Corpus Christi, Texas, “the federal government has largely stopped building beautiful buildings,” Mr. Trump said.

“In Washington, D.C., federal architecture has become a discordant mixture of classical and modernist designs,” his order said.

He described brutalist modern government buildings as characterized by “a massive and blocklike appearance with a rigid geometric style and large-scale use of exposed poured concrete.”

“It is time to update the policies guiding federal architecture to address these problems and ensure that architects designing federal buildings serve their clients, the American people,” Mr. Trump said. “New federal building designs should, like America’s beloved landmark buildings, uplift and beautify public spaces, inspire the human spirit, ennoble the United States, command respect from the general public, and, as appropriate, respect the architectural heritage of a region.”

In the nation’s capital, Mr. Trump said, government buildings “should also be visually identifiable as civic buildings and, as appropriate, respect regional architectural heritage.”

“Architecture — with particular regard for traditional and classical architecture — that meets the criteria set forth in this subsection is the preferred architecture for applicable federal public buildings,” he said. “In the District of Columbia, classical architecture shall be the preferred and default architecture for federal public buildings absent exceptional factors necessitating another kind of architecture.”

The order noted that the Founding Fathers recognized that classical architecture helped foster civic spirit.

“President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson consciously modeled the most important buildings in Washington, D.C., on the classical architecture of ancient Athens and Rome,” it said. “They sought to use classical architecture to visually connect our contemporary republic with the antecedents of democracy in classical antiquity, reminding citizens not only of their rights but also their responsibility in maintaining and perpetuating its institutions.”

Mr. Trump provided examples of beautiful federal buildings including the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia; the Pioneer Courthouse in Portland, Oregon; and the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in New York City.

He also admired the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the Treasury buildings in Washington.

The newly created council is to recommend policy changes to the General Services Administration by Sept. 30, 2021, to be incorporated into future planning and construction.

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