Few votes are likely to be influenced by a post on the eve of Election Day, but architecture will be heavily influenced by the vote. If Donald Trump wins, classical architecture will receive a boost. On the other hand, if Joe Biden wins, so will modern architecture.
Trump, after all, has sponsored an executive order that would shift the design of federal buildings from the current modernist mandate toward a classical mandate. Trump has not signed the order, and the order may not reflect the president’s personal taste in architecture. But the E.O. is called “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” a title that speaks volumes. If Trump does sign the E.O., and it is faithfully implemented, its influence will spread beyond federal buildings. The unbalanced market for architectural commissions will open up and shift toward tradition. Schools of architecture will respond to that shift by adding classical curricula. The public’s preference for traditional buildings, which has been stifled for a half a century, will guide architecture back to its roots. That will take time, but over time, beauty will return to the built environment.
Biden is a blank slate on architecture, so far as I know, but the modernists’ dominance of the field will continue if he is elected, since modern architecture is the brand of America’s corporate establishment. Furthermore, there will be no check on the rising influence of critical theory in architecture, which holds that its classical and traditional strains reflect the structurally racist agenda of white power, and threatens to escape the confines of academia. Institutional leadership will find it ever more difficult to resist the idea that columns and cornices are too risky in an increasingly woke cultural climate.
That does not mean that all Democrats are modernists and all Republicans are classicists. Far from it. Architecture ought to be the most bipartisan of fields. Classicism caters to the bottom-up, small-is-beautiful beliefs of traditional liberals, and fits better than modernism into the green agenda. And I’m sure that warm and cozy beats cold and sterile at the ballot box and everywhere else.
In fact, I’d wager that if exit polls taken after voters cast ballots were to ask about architectural preferences, the preferences of Biden voters and Trump voters would be nearly identical: three-to-one in favor of traditional styles. That conclusion was reached by a Harris Poll taken in October, and reached across every demographic category, including party identification. Of course, polling is in ill repute these days. Perhaps there are as many shy classicists as shy Trumpsters.
Who knows? That is one question that will not be answered on Election Day.
By the way, on the subject of voting, readers may vote whether my recent change to a smaller text font, forced upon me by WordPress, should be resisted. I may be able to increase the font size myself. If enough readers vote to approve such an attempt, I will make it, if it is possible.