Statement on Proposed Executive Order on Classical Design for Federal Buildings

The following was approved by the SCS board of directors on February 7, 2020.

The Society for Classical Studies joins the Society of Architectural Historians in opposing the proposed Executive Order “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.”  As students and scholars of the ancient Greco-Roman world and its ongoing cultural impact, we recognize that classical antiquity provided some of the many traditions that have shaped this nation, and we appreciate the examples of neo-classical architecture, both public and private, to be found throughout the United States.  But we firmly believe that the architectural style of public buildings should not be dictated in advance, but rather freely and deliberately chosen in view of all relevant considerations, and we reject the supposition that a style derived from classical models is necessarily better suited than any other to express the history, values, and aspirations of the American people.

Please see the letter below from the Society of Architectural Historians and a number of other scholarly societies, including SCS.

February 10, 2020

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Re: Opposition to proposed Executive Order “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again”

Dear Mr. President,

The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) expresses strong opposition to the proposed Executive Order “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.”

SAH is the principal scholarly organization for architectural historians worldwide.  Its members represent a broad spectrum of academic and professional specialties, with membership spanning the globe.  Our membership strongly opposes the language in the proposed Executive Order “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.”  We share the concern expressed by the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the academic associations listed below that have made common cause with us by signing this letter.

As an organization whose members have observed, recorded, and analyzed both historic and contemporary architecture since our inception in 1940, we have come to understand that most significant public architecture in the United States has resulted from the intersection of monumentality, permanence, and aesthetic significance and the specific local demands of site and community.  While we appreciate and encourage the attention paid to new federal courthouses, federal public buildings in the national Capitol region, and all federal buildings in the U.S. with budgets in excess of $50 million, we nonetheless remain convinced that the dictation of style – any style – is not the path to excellence in civic architecture. 

Democratic by Design:  Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture (1962), concluded, “Major emphasis should be placed on the choice of designs that embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought…Design must flow from the architectural professional to the Government, not vice versa.”   An important but often overlooked precept of Democratic by Design was the emphasis on “contemporary American architectural thought,” not necessarily contemporary design.  It encouraged both architectural practitioners and government officials to look for ways to express the ideals of American democracy in architectural form by looking to voices of the American public, rather than the amplification of a federal dictate from on high. 

The influence of Democratic by Design has been enduring and wide reaching.  This initiative has led to the design of several landmarks of American architecture, including the U.S. Tax Court Building in Washington, DC.  That courthouse was described by architecture critic Ada Louis Huxtable as “a progressive, sensitive contemporary solution fully responsive to Washington’s classical tradition and yet fully part of the mid-20th century—a period of exceptional vigor and beauty in the history of structure and design.”   A more recent example of this influence is the Oklahoma City Federal Building that replaced the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, destroyed by a domestic terrorist bombing in 1995.  In her Oklahoma City Journal Record piece describing the design of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, architect Carol Ross Barney’s statement echoed the enduring significance of Democratic by Design: “Obviously, the best thing to make it bomb-resistant was to make it hard, make it concrete.  But that’s the wrong message.  The message is that government has to be open.” 

A robust return to the principles of Democratic by Design would result in federal architecture that is monumental, permanent, and beautiful. This would be achieved by listening to the voices of the American public, placing emphasis on the communities in which these new buildings are to be located, and stressing the General Services Administration’s role in insuring that this diversity of voices is heard.  Instead of proscribing a particular stylistic outcome, such a path would instead promote architectural excellence, and a thoughtful fit between new federal architecture and the communities in which these buildings are to be constructed. 

While SAH opposes the language of proposed Executive Order “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” we strongly support a renewed effort to encourage the design and construction of federal buildings that embrace architectural excellence based on the best architectural thinking and technology available. America’s best can be embodied in an architectural expression that is monumental, permanent, community-centered, and beautiful.

Respectfully submitted,

Society of Architectural Historians

Middle East Studies Association

National Council on Public History

Organization of American Historians

Society for Classical Studies

(You can view the above letter on the SAH website at https://www.sah.org/about-sah/news/sah-news/news-detail/2020/02/06/society-of-architectural-historians-letter-in-opposition-to-proposed-executive-order-making-federal-buildings-beautiful-again)


Categories

Follow SCS News for information about the SCS and all things classical.

Use this field to search SCS News
Select a category from this list to limit the content on this page.

FELLOWSHIPS FOR RESEARCH AND STUDY AT THE GENNADIUS LIBRARY 2021-2022
 

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens is pleased to announce the academic programs and fellowships for the 2021-2022 academic year at the Gennadius Library. Opened in 1926 with 26,000 volumes from diplomat and bibliophile Joannes Gennadius, the Gennadius Library now holds a richly diverse collection of over 146,000 books and rare bindings, archives, manuscripts, and works of art illuminating the Hellenic tradition and neighboring cultures. The Library has become an internationally renowned center for the study of Greek history, literature, and art, especially from the Byzantine period to modern times.
 

COTSEN TRAVELING FELLOWSHIP FOR RESEARCH IN GREECE: Short-term travel award of $2,000 for senior scholars and graduate students, for work at the Gennadius Library. Open to all nationalities. At least one month of residency required. School fees are waived for a maximum of two months.

DEADLINE: JANUARY 15, 2021.
 

THE GEORGE PAPAIOANNOU FELLOWSHIP: Ph.D. candidates or recent PhDs writing on Greece in the 1940’s and the post-war period, civil wars and the history of the Second World War. Fellows are required to make use of the George Papaioannou Papers housed at the Archives of the ASCSA. Open to all nationalities. School fees are waived for a maximum of two months. Stipend of €2,000. 

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 10/26/2020 - 7:23am by Erik Shell.

August 2020 saw the release of  Total War Saga: Troy, a strategy video game where the player takes on the role of one of various heroes on either side of the Trojan War and leads their armies to victory. If you’ve ever wanted to play Penthesilea defeating Achilles, here’s your chance.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 10/23/2020 - 8:03am by .

Call for Papers, “Contact, Colonialism, and Comparison” Conference

Different methods of ‘comparing antiquities’ do or do not presuppose the existence of contact between the civilizations they compare, or else weigh differently the importance of contact to the work of comparison. Underlying these differences are methodological questions like: to what extent, and in what ways, the history of contact between different civilizations plays a role in the work of comparison? To what extent the fact of contact between two civilizations legitimates their comparison? How the aims and methods of comparison differ in cases where contact has or has not taken place? More subtly, how should the intellectual history of contact in later periods of a region’s history affect how we do comparative work on earlier periods of that history?

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 10/21/2020 - 11:15am by Erik Shell.

REVISED, 10/20/2020

The deadline for applications for the position of Editor of TAPA has been extended to November 20, 2020. Furthermore, in recognition of the increased demands currently being made on faculty time, we will now entertain, in addition to applications to be sole Editor, proposals from any self-formed team of two co-editors who wish to share the duties. A two-person application should include a statement of how the two co-editors will complement each other, how they will divide tasks, how often they will consult each other, and how they will reach consensus in difficult cases.

Call for Applications for Editor of TAPA (2022-2025)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 10/20/2020 - 12:54pm by Helen Cullyer.

Please see the following deadlines, some of which have recently been extended:

October Deadlines

Nominations for the Forum Prize: October 23 (extended deadline)

Classics Everywhere microgrant applications: October 26 (extended deadline)

November Deadlines

Nominations for the Precollegiate Teaching Award: November 2 (extended deadline)

Pearson Fellowship applications: November 6

TLL Fellowship applications: November 6

December Deadline

Frank M. Snowden Jr. Undergraduate Scholarships (formerly the Minority Scholarships): December 11

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 10/19/2020 - 12:34pm by Erik Shell.

Registration for the 2021 virtual annual meeting is now open!

You can register here: https://aia-scs-2021.secure-platform.com/

We also have funding available to support free registration for graduate students, contingent faculty, and unemployed scholars. You can apply for a registration subvention until November 15th using this form. We will also be sharing information soon on volunteer opportunities since we will be seeking volunteers to assist with tech support within sessions. If you are applying for a registration subvention or are interested in volunteering, please do not pay for registration at this stage.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 10/15/2020 - 10:28am by Erik Shell.

Welcoming New Board Members

In consultation with the Graduate Student Committee and Committee on Contingent Faculty, the SCS Board of Directors has approved two new appointed board positions, with voice but without vote, for a graduate student and contingent faculty member-at-large. These appointments will become effective in January 2021. It is intended that these two seats will become elected positions with full voting rights, but this will most likely require changes to the method of SCS elections, which will in itself require a member vote for approval. 

We welcome, as the initial appointees, Del Maticic (co-chair of the Graduate Student Committee) and Chiara Sulprizio (junior co-chair and incoming chair of the Contingent Faculty Committee) to the board in 2021. Del and Chiara will join the following elected officers and directors, who will also begin their terms in January 2021: Kathryn Gutzwiller (Vice President for Publications and Research); Jinyu Liu (director-at-large); Dan-el Padilla Peralta (director-at-large); Matthew Santirocco (President-Elect); and Ruth Scodel (Vice President for Professional Matters).

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 10/07/2020 - 10:50am by Erik Shell.

The Ph.D./ M.A. Program in Classics at the Graduate Center, CUNY is pleased to announce our upcoming virtual conference, 'Honor and Shame in Classical Antiquity', to be held on Friday, October 23 from 9:30 AM- 7 PM (EST) via Zoom webinar. This conference includes three graduate student panels (Embodiment and Performance, Greek Poetics, and Rhetorical Deployment). Our keynote speaker is Professor Margaret Graver (Dartmouth College); her presentation will be "The Eyes of the Other: Honor and Epistemology in Plato and the Early Stoics." A full schedule and further information are available online at https://opencuny.org/classicsconference2020/

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 10/06/2020 - 1:51pm by Erik Shell.

CALL FOR CHAPTERS

Pseudo-Oppian’s Cynegetica ­­– On the Hunt for Ethics and Poetics

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 10/06/2020 - 8:41am by Erik Shell.

Netflix’s new Paralympic documentary, Rising Phoenix (written and directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui), was released in August 2020. As with many Netflix docu-films, Phoenix uses interviews with various athletes and members of the Paralympic Committee to follow the history of the Paralympics. These interviews are intermixed with old footage from the sport events themselves as well as the the use of statues in the style of those granted to ancient Olympians and athletes. Focusing mainly on the games in Beijing, London, and Rio, Rising Phoenix tells the story not only of prominent athletes - Matt  Stutzman, Tatyana McFadden, Ellie Cole, Bebe Vio, Jonnie Peacock, Jean-Baptiste Alaize, Cui Zhe, Ryley Batt, and Ntando Mahlangu to name just a few - but also narrates the history of their disability along with their discovery of sport. In order to do so, Rising Phoenix draws on the imagery of classical statues in order to create a new perspective on disability in the modern world.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 10/05/2020 - 8:01am by .

Pages

Latest Stories

Awards and Fellowships
FELLOWSHIPS FOR RESEARCH AND STUDY AT THE GENNADIUS LIBRARY 2021-2022
Calls for Papers
Call for Papers, “Contact, Colonialism, and Comparison” Conference
SCS Announcements

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy