Yesterday, President Biden ordered the revocation of the Executive Order, “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture,” signed by former President Trump on December 18, 2020. The Trump order, mandating the preference for “traditional and classical architecture” in the design of new Federal buildings, prompted objections across the architectural community against prescribing any official style for government buildings. RECORD originally broke the story that the Trump White House was planning to issue such an executive order in February 2020.
The revocation was one of a series of orders that were overturned yesterday, including one which had sought to bar federal funding to U.S. cities deemed “anarchist” by the Trump White House. Read President Biden's full order here.
On February 25, the AIA issued a statement commending the act. Read the AIA's full statement below:
AIA commends Biden Administration for reversing Trump federal design mandate
WASHINGTON – Feb. 25, 2021 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) commends the Biden Administration’s decision to overturn the Executive Order, “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture.”
“By overturning this order, the Biden Administration has restored communities with the freedom of design choice that is essential to designing federal buildings that best serve the public,” said AIA 2021 President Peter Exley, FAIA. “This is fundamental to an architect’s process and to achieving the highest quality buildings possible. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration towards developing policies that create healthy, just and equitable communities.”
Under former President Trump’s Executive Order, government agencies could mandate an architectural style preference for federal courthouses and other federal buildings. It also promoted “classical” and “traditional” architecture above other designs and required extensive justification to use other styles. Additionally, the order conveyed misinformation about the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence Program, which the AIA strongly supports. Overall, the mandate inappropriately elevated the design tastes of a few federal appointees over the communities in which the buildings would be placed.
The AIA and its members have been working to stop the order for more than a year. In February of 2020, AIA members sent more than 11,400 letters to the White House condemning the earlier draft Executive Order. AIA leadership also issued letters on Feb. 6 and Feb. 20 to the Trump Administration strongly opposing the order.
Additionally, AIA had been advocating for The Democracy in Design Act, which was introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) on July 15. The Act would have effectively thwarted the Executive Order by codifying the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence Program principles into statute and ensuring the federal government maintains neutrality on architectural styles.