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Trump wants new US federal buildings to be "beautiful"

Long-expected executive order disparages architectural modernism but critics say Trump’s decree ‘mostly symbolic’

The brutalist J Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington
The brutalist J Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington.

"Donald Trump decreed on Monday that all new US federal buildings should be “beautiful”, in a long-expected executive order which excoriated architectural modernism but stopped short of demanding that all such projects should be in the classical style.

The Pulitzer prize-winning architectural critic Paul Goldberger said the order was “mostly symbolic” and “just a chance [for Trump] to lob another grenade on his way out the door”.

When a draft of the order first surfaced, in February, critics reacted with horror to its promise to “make federal buildings beautiful again” by mandating a return to “the classical architectural style”.

Both the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation objected, while Goldberger told the Guardian the problem was “not with classical architecture per se”, but that “the mandating of an official style is not fully compatible with 21st-century liberal democracy”.

Ten months later, and with the end of Trump’s time in office looming, the finished order arrived.

Its text extols examples of classical US public architecture including “the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, the Pioneer Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, and the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse in New York City”.

“In Washington DC,” it adds, “classical buildings such as the White House, the Capitol building, the supreme court, the Department of the Treasury and the Lincoln Memorial have become iconic symbols of our system of government.”"

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