More than 300,000 Americans killed in the raging coronavirus pandemic. Hospital systems buckling and overwhelmed. Widespread economic devastation. And what is President Trump focused on this week? An executive order “promoting beautiful federal civic architecture.”
He’s a builder, after all.
Trump announced the executive order Monday morning. The order’s text bemoans a lack of “beautiful” federal buildings — and seeks to change it.
“With a limited number of exceptions, such as the Tuscaloosa Federal Building and Courthouse and the Corpus Christi Federal Courthouse, the Federal Government has largely stopped building beautiful buildings,” the order reads. “In Washington, D.C., Federal architecture has become a discordant mixture of classical and modernist designs.”
“It is time to update the policies guiding Federal architecture to address these problems and ensure that architects designing Federal buildings serve their clients, the American people. New Federal building designs should, like America’s beloved landmark buildings, uplift and beautify public spaces, inspire the human spirit, ennoble the United States, command respect from the general public, and, as appropriate, respect the architectural heritage of a region,” the order’s text continues.
Never mind that many of Trump’s eponymous skyscrapers are modern-looking steel and glass structures, complete with lots of gaudy gold decor.
A number of commentators on Twitter noted that authoritarian leaders love the sort of neoclassical buildings Trump is boosting in the order.
Authoritarians love neoclassicism. They just do. It doesn’t matter where. https://t.co/1EnMFNR39e
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) December 21, 2020
My first thought upon reading this: A few years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a directive for architects to stop constructing "weird" buildings. https://t.co/rXjY0qkdQV https://t.co/cP4slXS6Zd
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) December 21, 2020
Comically proto-fascist, yes, but the truly funny thing is that this little essay begins "Societies have long recognized the importance of beautiful public architecture." Check-plus, off to recess. https://t.co/P7chtbuwze
— Nathan Heller (@nathanheller) December 21, 2020
Others pointed out how Trump surely has better things to do with his limited time left in government.
Finally, the relief that the working people of Ohio and Indiana were praying would come before the socialists take over https://t.co/fUgcy3rKFi
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) December 21, 2020
— take care of yourself (@anamariecox) December 21, 2020
Ah yes, the party of small government would now like the government to decide what counts as Art Deco. (For the next thirty days, I guess.) https://t.co/3wRFrUcb7N
— Hank Green (@hankgreen) December 21, 2020
We've reached the point where he's nothing but a punchline. https://t.co/KJXLKFoqQV
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) December 21, 2020
— Sean Morrow (@snmrrw) December 21, 2020