Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, February 7, 2020
The Trump Administration has reportedly drafted an executive order to make “the classical architecture style” the “preferred and default style” for federal buildings. This would probably prevent eyesores like the U.S. Federal Building in San Francisco and the U.S. Courthouse in Austin. The Architectural Record reports that the draft requires buildings to display the values of “democratic Athens” and “republican Rome,” rather than “Brutalism and Deconstructivism.”
“Brutalism” comes from the French word brute, which means “raw concrete,” and wasn’t meant to define a deliberately harsh style. But it does. “Brutalism” is about creating buildings that display their construction material rather than concealing them for aesthetics’ sake. Architects often put up these unadorned buildings for public housing projects, and the style was popular in the Soviet Bloc. “Brutalism” is thus associated with socialist and vaguely totalitarian government schemes — and collapsing neighborhoods.
“Deconstructivist” architects deliberately avoid harmony and symmetry, in a school influenced by Jacques Derrida. Their buildings seem to be in motion or splitting apart, and violate traditional standards of beauty. The style has explicit political overtones. For example, a triangle juts out from the Museum of Military History in Dresden, Germany; architect Daniel Libeskind said he wanted to “penetrate the historic arsenal” and “engage the public in the deepest issue of how organized violence and how military history and the fate of the city are intertwined.”
Prince Charles has famously criticized modern architecture. The Guardian in turn said he was a reactionary. As Douglas Murphy wrote, “Rejecting modern architecture went hand-in-hand with fighting the unions, deregulating the planned economy, smashing industry and rejecting the spectre of socialism that had almost ruined Britain.”
The late Roger Scruton fiercely hated modern architecture, calling for a return to “beauty” and art that can “open ourselves to our highest aspirations.” He was part of the Britain’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. Professor Sam Jacob said the commission is “clearly a front for the continuing attack on progressive ideas about architecture and cities” and claimed to see a “clear link between its aesthetic agenda and the far right.” He also says it is an “appeal to blinkered, quasi-fascist old white men.”
President Trump’s proposed order met a similar reception. The American Institute of Architects complains that “architecture should be designed for the specific communities” and should reflect “our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture and climates.” (Improbably, the AIA’s logo is an eagle in front of a column.)
Fast Company suggested it’s not completely irrational to “conflate Trump’s draft order with Nazi-era architectural shows of power.” Steven Heller of the NYU School of Visual Arts says “[T]here is reason for alarm in the rhetoric that the king of tasteless glitz is attempting to impose his personal brand on the physical manifestation of this nation.” Mr. Heller was also angry about our poster campaign.
Twitter was furious about the proposed executive order.
“Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” oh shut the fuck up https://t.co/HeBN003ZXB
— Amy Plitt (@plitter) February 4, 2020
Forcing federal buildings to be in a classical style would be a dramatic rebuke to the entire profession of architecture, and an embarrassing step backwards… https://t.co/P9zaP8nfZY
— Yonah Freemark (@yfreemark) February 4, 2020
— Annie Lowrey (@AnnieLowrey) February 4, 2020
Media have already linked classical architecture to “white supremacy.”
- “How architecture-themed Twitter accounts became a magnet for white nationalism,” NewStatesmanAmerica
- “Twitter account dedicated to traditional European architecture draws ire as an architecture-themed dog-whistle,” Archinect
- “The Aesthetics of Empire: Neoclassial Art and White Supremacy,” Contemporary
On one level, this is just the usual hysteria from journalists and academics hunting for “white supremacy” clickbait. However, traditional or classical architecture connects Europeans to their history. This has obvious political overtones, because if people feel connected to their heritage and history, they are more willing to fight for it. For that reason, some journalists and academics are worried about a return to traditional architecture. “We can currently witness a cultural tendency of using seemingly harmless terms like ‘identity,’ ‘tradition,’ and ‘beauty,’ to establish an idea of ethnic purity protected by a fortress Europe,” says Professor Stephan Trüby of University of Stuttgart.
But what’s the purpose of Brutalist and Deconstructionist buildings? Does anyone really think they are heroic or even pretty? Do they not reinforce an idea of racial deracination? Many academics are open about trying to dismantle the very concept of Western Civilization. As Jared Taylor notes, “diversity destroys culture,” certainly our culture. Architecture that alienate whites from their past makes them feel helpless, rootless, and weak. As part of a larger wave of hostility, this may be driving whites to despair or even suicide.
In a healthy society, buildings connect people to their heritage and history. They offer comfort, beauty, and connectedness. All institutions should do this. Instead, our institutions spread cultural and physical poison, and we see the results everywhere. President Trump’s proposed executive order is one small step towards reuniting white Americans with our civilizational tradition.