The AIA has issued a statement in response to an August 10 Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from the General Services Administration for the lead design architect of a new federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The RFQ noted that "Classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style absent special extenuating factors necessitating another style," seemingly in line with the draft executive order that RECORD obtained in February 2020, called “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again."
In an amendment to the RFQ posted on August 14, the GSA reaffirmed that "Classical architectural is the preferred style," also acknowledging the "challenges associated with a classical architectural style in South Florida which may necessitate another style esthetic that follows the classical philosophy, while maintaining the dignity of the Judiciary and Federal Government."
Read the AIA's full statement below.
WASHINGTON – Aug. 20, 2020 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) condemns the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) recent mandate for a federal district courthouse to be designed in a classical style in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
“We reject the principle of any pre-ordained styles mandated for GSA projects,” said AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “Instead, the AIA emphatically supports the peer-reviewed Design Excellence Program, which has raised the quality of federal design in communities throughout the United States, with projects tailored to the people, the places, and the times we live in.”
While no Executive Order has been issued to date, the AIA believes that this is GSA’s project-by-project replacement of the draft order, which was circulated earlier this year. Since last year, AIA has been working to stop the order, which attempted to establish classical architecture as the preferred style. This would have applied to all federal courthouses, all federal public buildings in the Capital region, and all other federal public buildings whose cost exceeds $50 million.
Last month, AIA expressed strong support for the “Democracy in Design Act” (H.R.7604), which was introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) in July. The legislation would override the recent action by the GSA and prevent any future Executive Order by directing “the Administrator of General Services to ensure that the construction and acquisition of public buildings in the United States adheres to the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture.” By codifying the GSA's Design Excellence Program principles into statute, Congress will ensure the federal government maintains its current neutrality on architectural styles.
In February, AIA members sent more than 11,400 letters to the White House condemning the earlier draft Executive Order. Additionally, AIA leadership issued letters on Feb. 6 and Feb. 20 to the Trump Administration strongly opposing the order.