Here is an interesting topic for debate.
This week the NY Times reported that a non-profit group called the National Civic Art Society has drafted an executive order that would make classical architecture the default style for all federal buildings in the United States. The draft order is naturally titled: “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.”
Here is an excerpt from the New York Times:
“For too long architectural elites and bureaucrats have derided the idea of beauty, blatantly ignored public opinions on style, and have quietly spent taxpayer money constructing ugly, expensive, and inefficient buildings,” Marion Smith, the group’s chairman, wrote in a text message. “This executive order gives voice to the 99 percent — the ordinary American people who do not like what our government has been building.”
As you can imagine, this proposed order isn’t sitting well with many architects (the real kind who, presumably, hold licenses). Thom Mayne of Morphosis put it well with this quote:
“We are a society that is linked to openness of thought, to looking forward with optimism and confidence at a world that is always in the process of becoming. Architecture’s obligation is to maintain this forward thinking stance.”
I think there are many people who would tell you that they prefer classical architecture to modern architecture. And that’s totally fine. I don’t know how many is many, but I am fairly certain it is not 99% of all Americans. (It would be interesting to know the approximate taste split.)
My strong view is that I don’t see the need to mandate a particular architectural style. Let architecture respond to the world around us. Let urban context guide. Like Mayne, I am also drawn to the future, as opposed to the past — though I certainly appreciate history.
What is your view?
As a side note, classical architecture was used pretty much exclusively for federal buildings up until the 1930s. Architecture school taught me that it was initially chosen because it was seen to embody the ideals of the American democracy.