Statement | Washington, DC | February 6, 2020

National Trust for Historic Preservation Opposes Proposed Executive Order Mandating “Traditional” Architectural Styles for Federal Buildings

The great American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright said that an architect should “be a great original interpreter of his [or her] time.” In that way, architecture is a record of the American lived experience, and our work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation is to ensure that a record of places that matter is retained as a recollection of our journey as a people.

This week several media sources reported that the White House is being lobbied to adopt an executive order that would effectively mandate the use of “traditional” and “classical” architectural styles for future federal buildings and even for renovation projects at existing federal buildings.

While the National Trust values -- and protects -- traditional and classical buildings throughout the country, to censor and stifle the full record of American architecture by requiring federal buildings to be designed, and even altered, to comply with a narrow list of styles determined by the federal government is inconsistent with the values of historic preservation. The draft order would put at risk federal buildings across the country that represent our full American story, and would have a chilling effect on new design, including the design of federal projects in historic districts.

Current federal standards require that federal architecture be based on “designs that embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought.” As preservationists, we know that the country has been well served by that standard, evidenced by the rich architectural record represented in the diverse portfolio of federal buildings, and by the expertise of architects, engineers, builders, and artists who would be excluded from critical decision-making roles by the executive order. We strongly oppose any effort to impose a narrow set of styles for future federal projects based on the architectural tastes of a few individuals that will diminish, now and for the future, our rich legacy of federal architecture.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
SavingPlaces.org | @savingplaces

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