AIA condemns executive order mandating design preference for federal architecture

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) strongly opposes an executive order mandating “classical” design preference for federal architecture. Photo ©
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) strongly opposes an executive order mandating “classical” design preference for federal architecture.
Photo ©

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) unequivocally opposes the executive order, “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture,” signed by President Trump.

The executive order dictates an architectural style preference for federal courthouses and certain other federal buildings to be mandated by government agencies. The order attempts to promote “classical” and “traditional” architecture above other design styles. The order also incorrectly vilifies the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence Program, a press release from AIA said.

“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 Robert Ivy, FAIA, CEO of AIA. “Though we are appalled with the administration’s decision to move forward with the design mandate, we are happy the order is not as far reaching as previously thought.”

“The AIA does not, and never will, prioritize any type of architectural design over another,” the AIA press release said. In February, AIA members sent over 11,000 letters to the White House condemning the mandated designation of “classical” architecture as the preferred style of all federal courthouses, all federal public buildings in the Capital region, and all other federal public buildings whose cost exceeds $50 million.

The executive order requires extensive justification to use anything other than the preferred design style. While the executive order makes mention of incorporating regional design traditions, in practice it would still cut local voices out of a critical part of the design process, the press release said. “It inappropriately elevates the design tastes of a few federal appointees over the communities in which the buildings will be placed.”

“The AIA will continue to support the Design Excellence Program, which maintains a style-neutral approach that focuses on community-centered decision-making, demonstrated architectural skill, and public input. The diversity of American architectural achievement is a national treasure that must be continued,” AIA said.

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5 comments on “AIA condemns executive order mandating design preference for federal architecture”

  1. There are 95,000 plus members in the American Institute of Architects- according to their own website information. ONLY 11,000 signatures on a letter (not letters), many of which were electronic, were obtained objecting to this Federal Mandate. So where does the leadership of the AIA believe they have a right to publicly espouse an opinion and commentary on behalf of all AIA members? These positions are essentially personal opinions of the leading officers and of a small minority of members (less than 12%.)

    How should this information be reaching the public???

    1. Not a single public letter supporting the new Trump policy has been announced, signed by zero architects. Thus 0% of architects support the policy, and the AIA has 100% support for their positions. See? I can draw false conclusions, too.

  2. I would like to agree with Mr. Heuring’s comments. That would appear to make Dave and I a very small minority…..but I somehow doubt that he and I are actually alone in our thoughts.

    Many, if not most, cities, communities, neighborhood associations have their exterior design guidelines. It is our responsibility to work within those guidelines to create the art of our work. And please do not forget that it is the interior of the building that is the heart of the project and must work or the exterior is of no value.

  3. One of the purposes for the mandate was for federal buildings to be recognizable as such to the public. Classical ‘style’ has a lot of latitude in how it can be implemented and applied to the use.

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