President Joe Biden revokes Trump order limiting federal buildings to classical, traditional architecture

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Feb. 25 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden has signed an executive order rescinding an action by former President Donald Trump seeking to limit federal buildings to classical or traditional architecture.

The move came in a late-Wednesday order that sought to undo multiple Trump-era executive orders.

Trump signed the "Promoting Beautiful Federal Civil Architecture" executive order Dec. 21. While not outright banning any particular style of architecture, it established classical as the preferred style -- which is influenced by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

The order said federal buildings should be "beautiful," and established the Council for Improving Federal Civil Architecture to recommend updates to guidelines from the General Services Administration. It also required the GSA to get feedback from the general public before selecting final designs for buildings.

In recent decades, the U.S. government has favored large, imposing concrete structures often associated with the Brutalist style in architecture. Trump was known to decry such buildings as "ugly."

Some applauded Trump's original order, including Justin Shubow, whom the former president appointed to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The independent federal agency makes recommendations on federal designs.

"Our federal architecture has been dismal for decades, and has been designed in modernist styles that do not represent what ordinary Americans actually want," Shubow, who also is president of the National Civil Art Society, told NPR.

An NCAS poll conducted by Harris in October 2020 found that when presented with pairs of images of one classical and one modern federal building, 72% of people preferred the more traditional architecture. The survey also showed bipartisan preference for classical architecture, with 73% of Republicans, 70% of Democrats and 73% of independents in favor.

But the American Institute of Architects said the Trump order took away the public's "freedom of design choice" and the ability of architects to create a design appropriate for a particular space and purpose.

A statement from the organization said the Trump order "elevated the design tastes of a few federal employees over the communities in which the buildings would be placed."

"This is fundamental to an architect's process and to achieving the highest quality buildings possible," said AIA President Peter Exley in reaction to Biden's order. "We look forward to continuing to work with the administration towards developing policies that create healthy, just and equitable communities."

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