Architectural League 
Statement on "Preferred" Styles for Federal Architecture

A draft executive order being considered by the White House would direct the General Services Administration to adopt classical architecture as the “preferred” style for federal courthouses, federal buildings in the National Capital Region, and other federal buildings that cost more than $50 million. It would establish classical architecture and other traditional styles as “preferred” styles for all federal buildings. (See Chicago Sun-Times article with full draft of the executive order.)

The Architectural League fundamentally opposes the imposition of a “preferred” style—whether classical or any other—by diktat as the enforced representation of the American people and their institutions. Such a policy would be anathema to the idea of a free, diverse, and inclusive society.

Architecture that represents the American people must be created in response to specific sites and specific needs, responsive to local communities and conditions, drawing on the skills of the country’s most talented architects.

The United States has long benefitted from the wisdom of the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1962, which have been the touchstone for the General Services Administration’s most successful work in building for the federal government. Moynihan wrote the following in the Report to the President by the Ad Hoc Committee on Federal Office Space, June 1, 1962:

“… the committee recommends a three point architectural policy for the Federal Government.

  1. The policy shall be to provide requisite and adequate facilities in an architectural style and form which is distinguished and which will reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American National Government. Major emphasis should be placed on the choice of designs that embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought. Specific attention should be paid to the possibilities of incorporating into such designs qualities which reflect the regional architectural traditions of that part of the Nation in which buildings are located….
  2. The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government. and not vice versa….The advice of distinguished architects ought to, as a rule, be sought prior to the award of important design contracts.
  3. The choice and development of the building site should be considered the first step of the design process. This choice should be made in cooperation with local agencies….”
    GSA: Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture.

We urge you to contact the White House immediately to voice your objection to the creation of “preferred” styles for federal architecture.

Via AIA link  |  Via White House comment link

Paul Lewis, President
Rosalie Genevro, Executive Director