The AIA has issued a statement in strong support of legislation introduced this week that, if passed, would override an anticipated executive order (EO) mandating “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style” for new and upgraded federal buildings.
Earlier this year, RECORD obtained a draft of the EO and broke the story, prompting public outcry from many members the design community. Opponents of such a mandate called for the preservation of late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s "Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture," issued in 1962, which state that “an official style must be avoided.”
The “Democracy in Design Act,” as H.R.7604 has been dubbed, was introduced in the House of Representatives on July 13 and would direct the administrator of General Services Administration (GSA) to “ensure that the construction and acquisition of public buildings in the United States adheres to the guiding principles for Federal architecture, and for other purposes.” By codifying the GSA’s Design Excellence Program principles into statute, “Congress will ensure the federal government maintains its current neutrality on architectural styles,” the AIA said in its statement.
“Our public buildings should reflect the rich diversity of our nation and its people,” said Representative Diana Titus, chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, which oversees the GSA and federal buildings. “They should signify our progress over the years and be as accessible as possible.”
“Mandating any single design style will undermine the value of the very architectural style it seeks to promote,” said Jane Frederick, the AIA's 2020 president. “Buildings—both functionally and aesthetically—must be designed to serve their populations. It’s critical that communities have the ability to decide for themselves what architectural design best fits their needs.”