Biden Squashes Trump’s Plan For Neoclassical Federal Buildings Across the U.S.

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Photo credit: Scott Olson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Scott Olson - Getty Images

Last year, former President Trump drafted an executive order—originally known as “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again”—stipulating that all new federal buildings and monuments would be built in the Neoclassical style of architecture. Since then, President Biden has nixed this plan by revoking this order—and, just last week, he appointed four new members to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which oversees all design-related undertakings such as this one.

Biden’s move will continue to allow for the creation of federal buildings and monuments in any architectural style, rather than solely adhering to the Greek and Roman-inspired Neoclassical aesthetic. As many pointed out following Trump’s proposed mandate, controlling the designs of buildings is something numerous dictators have done throughout history, including Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which consists of just seven people, aids both Congress and the president with decisions related to aesthetics and design, including that of government buildings (both new and renovated) and memorial buildings. In the 111 years since the Commission’s creation, notable figures including landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and Hideo Sasaki have been members.

Biden’s new appointees to the Commission include Hazel Ruth Edwards, a professor of urban planning at Howard University; architect Billie Tsien of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, which helmed the creation of Chicago’s Obama Presidential Center; Justin Garrett Moore, the Program Officer of the Humanities in Place program at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and architect Peter D. Cook of HGA Architects.

Beyond the nixing of Trump’s proposed architectural mandate, we'll just have to wait and see what else the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts will do under the Biden administration. (Might the White House Rose Garden be restored to its former glory??)

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