WTTW – “Draft Executive Order Would Make ‘Federal Buildings Beautiful Again'”

February 21, 2020
Oklahoma City Federal Building 5

Under a pro­posed Trump admin­is­tra­tion exec­u­tive order, build­ings like the Fed­er­al Cen­ter (in Chica­go) – and oth­er gov­ern­ment projects designed in a mod­ern style – could have a hard time get­ting built. Called Mak­ing Fed­er­al Build­ings Beau­ti­ful Again,’ the draft exec­u­tive order would force the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to pri­or­i­tize clas­si­cal archi­tec­ture – pic­ture the U.S Capi­tol or the White House – for future fed­er­al cour­t­hous­es and build­ings that cost over $50 million.

Fed­er­al archi­tec­ture should once again inspire respect instead of bewil­der­ment or repug­nance,’ the order reads. Clas­si­cal and tra­di­tion­al archi­tec­ture styles have proven their abil­i­ty to inspire such respect for our sys­tem of self‐​government. Their use should be encour­aged.’ Advo­cates say the pro­pos­al would pre­vent the con­struc­tion of pub­lic build­ings they call ugly, while inspir­ing a new respect for Amer­i­can democracy…

Car­ol “…was the first woman to be com­mis­sioned to design a fed­er­al build­ing – the mod­ernist replace­ment to the Mur­rah Fed­er­al Build­ing in Okla­homa City after it was bombed in 1995.

Fed­er­al cour­t­hous­es and fed­er­al build­ings are immense­ly com­plex. The lev­el of secu­ri­ty and the lev­el of pro­tec­tion that you have to pro­vide … the truth of the mat­ter is that the Parthenon just wouldn’t do it,’ she said.

Chica­go has a long his­to­ry with clas­si­cal archi­tec­ture, includ­ing the struc­tures of the 1893 World’s Fair, and Daniel Burnham’s most­ly unre­al­ized but influ­en­tial 1909 Plan of Chicago.

Many notable civic exam­ples are still in use today, like City Hall, the Cul­tur­al Cen­ter and a new­er addi­tion: the Harold Wash­ing­ton Library. Even the site of the cur­rent Fed­er­al Cen­ter, in all its sleek moder­ni­ty, has clas­si­cal roots. It was once occu­pied by the mam­moth Chica­go Fed­er­al Build­ing, a Beaux Arts struc­ture that took up an entire city block.

Ross Bar­ney is com­pli­men­ta­ry of the build­ing, but says ulti­mate­ly – like the pro­posed exec­u­tive order – it just wasn’t the right fit for the city. It didn’t have a sense of equi­ty or open­ness that is expressed by the cur­rent cour­t­house,’ she said. For one thing, it didn’t have the place for peo­ple to gath­er and protest that this one does – and I just think that that cour­t­house is so much more appro­pri­ate as an expres­sion of Chicago.’

Check out the inter­view with Car­ol and read more at news​.wttw​.com.

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