Readings on the exec. order

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Washington’s Federal Triangle, c. 1950. Build 1930-1947. Last major classical development in United States. (Federal Triangle Heritage Trail Assessment Study, 2010)

Here is a list of readings, pro and con, from newspapers and magazines, plus original source material, to help readers judge the wisdom and validity, such as they may be, of the draft proposed executive order from the White House on “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” I assure longtime readers that, although this is my third post on the controversy in a row, with another one coming soon (after publication in the Providence Journal), that normal programming will resume.

Here is the list, with the draft executive order and current guidelines to start:

“Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again”:

Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture/Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1962):

Architectural Record (Feb. 4):
American Institute of Architects/Robert Ivy
Response to AIA/Michael G. Imber, architect
TradArch/Patrick Webb/visual survey (50 states so far)/1962 guidelines:
TradArch/Patrick Webb/visual survey (federal bldgs in D.C.)/1962 guidelines:
Wall Street Journal/Michael J. Lewis (paywall?)/videos on trads, mods:
The New Republic article/Kate Wagner:
The Atlantic/Andrew Ferguson:
Washington Post article/Philip Kennicott:
New York Times editorial:
New York Times/Michael Kimmelman:
New York Times/Katie Rogers and Robin Pogrebin:
New York Times letters:
Fox News/Tucker Carlson/video:
City Journal/Catesby Leigh:
First Things/Catesby Leigh:
Taki’s Magazine/Theodore Dalrymple:
The American Conservative/Theodore Dalrymple:
National Review/Colette Arredondo:
Quartz/Anne Quito:
American Enterprise Institute/Ross Douthat:
Architect/Blaine Brownell:
The Public Discourse/Joel Pidel:
Architexturez/Essays by Michael Mehaffy, Nikos Salingaros, Ann Sussman:
World Catholic Report/George Weigel: Dickinson:
Daily Beast/Jean Baker
Twitter/NYT/Ross Douhat/thread:
The Federalist/Nikos Salingaros:
The Federalist/Sumantra Maitra:
The Federalist/Christopher Bedford:
The Federalist/Carroll William Westfall:
The Federalist/Sen. Mike Lee:
Strong Towns/Charles Marohn:
Wall Street Journal/City Journal/Myron Magnet:
Clusterfuck Nation: James Howard Kunstler:
Witold Rybczynski:
Arcdigital Media/Justin Lee:
CommonEdge/Steven Semes:
David Brussat/“Bring diversity to federal design”:
David Brussat/“Unify in the fight for beauty”:

David Brussat/”Parsing classical creativity”:

David Brussat/”America’s favorite buildings”:

David Brussat/”EO: The two paths ahead”:

David Brussat/”The foreboding of H.H. Reed”:

David Brussat/”Along NYC’s Museum Mile”:

David Brussat/”Preview of the E.O. era”:

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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6 Responses to Readings on the exec. order

  1. Pingback: America’s favorite architecture | Architecture Here and There

  2. John says:

    “Though Trump has put up buildings ranging from nineteenth-century retrofits to late-modern skyscrapers, his personal style is a combination of 2000s bling and Louis XIV—nothing in his penthouse Trump Tower apartment is spared a metallic coating. His choice of modernism for the style of the Trump Towers in Chicago and New York can simply be explained away by the fact that modern, all-glass buildings are the hegemonic aesthetic signature of corporate capitalism: It is the style of big business.”

    I already noticed this, must be pretty obvious. Take also into account the larger Trump family and their business(es).

    The whole media debate regarding dictatorial regimes is ideologically rigged anyway.
    Nazism, fascism and communism are foremost collectivist systems. Democracy is also a type of collectivist system. Collectivist systems are characterized by giving power to the people to some extent, in as far as their mass and rule is needed, which leads to the politicization of the masses, effectively producing a system run by a ‘thousand’ small dictators. One should be aware that a dictator, emperor or a monarch, or an elite (aristocracy) in a non collectivist system can only produce a minimal amount of rules and regulations, and have in history only produced a minimal amount of rules and regulations. While on the other hand, in our modern democratic state, the size of the state and the amount of laws and regulations it produces has no historical precedent. In democratic systems like the modern ones, armies of policy makers are day in day out, month in month out, year in year out occupied with inventing laws, regulations and policies. Aside of armies of managers producing tons and tons of management theories and procedures on the lower level.
    In a non collectivist system, the authority or authorities can also not be present to enforce his or their rule everywhere at the same time. In collectivist systems like democracy, fascism, Nazism, etc., there are a thousand dictators enforcing their rule by means of armies of institutional bureaucracies and there is a police force of which the size also has no historical precedence. Aside of politicized citizens who engage in spying, and reporting to authorities, and as such enforcement of their rule on the small scale (which also happens in democracies).
    The historical rise of regimes like Nazism, fascism and communism all depended on empowerment of the masses, as well as democracy is dependent on it.

    Obsession with laws, regulations, policies and procedures defines our modern societies, which is the result of the rule of the small people, characterized by overall pettiness and a credulous belief in the need for regulation. As said before, no one dictator however fanatic would be able to produce this, nor would he be able to enforce it.
    There is no greater and ubiquitously present Dictator than The People.

    Since a democracy emerges from a breaking down of historical authorities, formed by historical rulers and intelligentsia, in a long running democracy, those who are more intelligent, those small minorities who think bigger and are more active than mediocre mass man will naturally gain control, and as such you end up with oligarchy or ‘plutocracy’. They will then rule implicitly rather then explicitly, paying lip service to democracy, while structurally ruling society (even multiple societies), they will leave the small things up to democracy, to its thousand of small dictators to govern.

    So the media debate and the contemporary ideologists’ arguments consists of small time debates, obsessively repetitive, obsessive and framed to the point of debilitation, for those who have dust thrown into their eyes by the media. While the current dictatorship is twofold: that of the people on the small level producing a gigantic state, and structurally on the bigger level, the rule of the contemporary oligarchy.


  3. John says:

    I maintain that focusing on one sphere, the sphere of architecture, while in all spheres of aesthetics, ugliness, crudeness and vulgarity rules- is destined to fail. Even if such efforts succeed locally, they could even give rise to a stylistic expression of comicalness , desperateness, or even out of place bizarre (which plays into the hands of the opposition). Even the aesthetic movement at the end of the nineteenth century focussed on multiple spheres. My theory regarding this one sided focus is that modern twentieth century society is characterized by specialization, over-regulation and over-bureaucratization, so that all spheres are isolated to a great degree, and bureaucratization and regulation kills the spirit. As such there is no overarching philosophy of aesthetics which could join all specialized spheres, providing a foundation. Hence, in particular spheres one ends up with navel-gazing.

    Aside of a philosophy of aesthetics, it could be argued that it is the arrangement of society, the way it is governed, the idols it worships (technology, quantities, the market place) and overall the values which it derives from these which defines where things are heading. The worship of technology for instance gives rise not only to neo-modernist architecture, but it defines also the aesthetic taste in a great deal of other areas.
    Another issue is that the modern world is one big marketplace, it is the gigantic commercial class and the marketeers who control almost the whole sphere of modern aesthetics. So that the tastes in the area of aesthetics in modern life are almost totally shaped by means of motives of profit making. Where profit making in itself is not a bad thing, as one has to make a living, but profit making in itself has become the target. Added to this, it is the idealogical push of tech cults and their elites who are pushing tech-aesthetics. These factions, the commercial class and the tech-cults bombard people with their aesthetics and visions of the future, and they are present ubiquitously, they also target the foundations, the who are the future of society (youth), and they are extremely active.


  4. barry schiller says:

    “lazy” has a good point, I can remember walking all the way around the vast (classical) Commerce dept building in DC thinking why so vast, what they all do??
    Its not just national government, state and local governments are also too quick to spend on new buildings and/or abandon existing ones – think Providence Water and the Board of Elections moving out to expand their empires and have acres of parking, parking.
    Private companies do so too. National Grid abadonded the Providence Gas Building, ironic in that the head of Prov Gas helped found Grow Smart RI to try to promote concentrating development in places such as downtown where the infrastructure was already there. Or Citizens Bank, moving much of its workforce out of the metro area to the woods of Johnston for a new “campus” and having taxpayers subsidize it with a new I-295 interchange. Now that area looks like anywhereville.
    That said, the Trump administration has it right that what public buildings we do build should be beautiful. More irony: some who should know better are criticizing this because they (understandably) detest Trump, and some Trump supporters are OK with this even they support the destruction of natural beauty in Trump’s schemes to open public lands to more mining, logging, drilling, fracking, uranium development…


  5. LazyReader says:

    Beautiful buildings aside, while I’m all for classicisms return to major cities I’m not particularly concerned what that entails namely demolitions of existing buildings? Costing even more
    Like the Affordable housing highrise project fiascos of yesteryear, in 10-15 years the government BLOWS up the very things they once heralded as the solution..
    The Fed doesn’t need anymore buildings. The Government has tons of office buildings it lets sit empty. UP until Donald Trump turned the Old Post Office building into one of his hotels; it brought up the instance of just how much vacant real estate the government owns. The government lost 6 MILLION dollars a year as the annex sit empty. That’s one of the tens of thousands of excess buildings they admit to owning and they spend billions keeping them despite the fact their empty even ones built using pre-war styles of architecture.

    Second in the era of raging deficits, should the government seriously bulldoze and rebuild DC buildings galore. Everything government builds, COSTS MORE. The US Capitol Visitor’s Center was supposed to cost 265 Million dollars, it ended up costing 621 Million.
    The Veterans Affair medical facility in Denver, was projected to cost 591 million, it’s now at 1.7 Billion. Federal buildings, courthouses, court annexes, personnel amenities…..the point is be it contemporary or classical, these buildings are monuments to government narcissism. Why build new stuff when they have perfectly good buildings, thousands of them in their portfolio


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