The order did not explicitly define what standards buildings must meet to be considered beautiful, saying that new federal buildings should be of classical design but not mandating that style. The order defines classical architecture as “the architectural tradition derived from the forms, principles, and vocabulary of the architecture of Greek and Roman antiquity” and that “encompasses such styles as Neoclassical, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco.”
It applies to all federal courthouses, agency headquarters, DC public buildings and all other public buildings costing more than $50 million.
Arguing that some of the Founding Fathers “attached great importance to Federal civic architecture, the order laments how in the 1950s and 60s, “the Federal Government largely replaced traditional designs for new construction with modernist ones.”
“The Federal architecture that ensued, overseen by the General Services Administration (GSA), was often unpopular with Americans,” the order states. “The new buildings ranged from the undistinguished to designs even GSA now admits many in the public found unappealing.”
The executive order also creates the President’s Council on Improving Federal Civic Architecture. The council is tasked with submitting a report to the GSA administrator recommending updates to GSA’s policies and procedures to incorporate the new architectural guidelines.
“Communities should have the right and responsibility to decide for themselves what architectural design best fits their needs, and we look forward to working with President-Elect Biden to ensure that,” said the group’s CEO, Robert Ivy. “Though we are appalled with the administration’s decision to move forward with the design mandate, we are happy the order isn’t as far reaching as previously thought.”
“The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government,” Moynihan wrote at the time, “and not vice versa.”
Trump’s order derided the established protocol — which aims to “provide visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American Government” — stating that it “has not met this goal.”
Trump has revealed strong opinions in the past on official buildings he does or does not see as stylish.
“The cheap 12 inch sq. marble tiles behind speaker at UN always bothered me,” he tweeted in 2012. “I will replace with beautiful large marble slabs if they ask me.”
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.