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)


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Classical Memories Modern Identities Series

Editors, Richard Armstrong and Paul Allen Miller

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 08/10/2020 - 1:34pm by Erik Shell.

Residential Fellowships 2021-22

Call for Applications

The National Humanities Center invites applications for academic-year or one-semester residential fellowships. Mid-career, senior, and emerging scholars with a strong record of peer-reviewed work from all areas of the humanities are encouraged to apply.

Scholars from all parts of the globe are eligible; stipends and travel expenses are provided. Fellowship applicants must have a PhD or equivalent scholarly credentials. Fellowships are supported by the Center’s own endowment, private foundation grants, contributions from alumni and friends, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Located in the vibrant Research Triangle region of North Carolina, the Center affords access to the rich cultural and intellectual communities supported by the area’s research institutes, universities, and dynamic arts scene. Fellows enjoy private studies, in-house dining, and superb library services that deliver all research materials.

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020. For more information and to apply, please visit the link below.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 08/10/2020 - 1:24pm by Erik Shell.

In support of racial justice, the SCS Executive Committee has approved donations to the National Bailout Collective and African American Policy Forum. Many thanks to SCS members who suggested these organizations. The SCS Executive Committee has also approved a donation to the William Sanders Scarborough Fellowship Fund of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 08/04/2020 - 11:35am by Helen Cullyer.

Dear members and past annual meeting attendees,

Many thanks to all of you who filled out our recent virtual annual meeting survey. Based on your feedback, AIA and SCS have decided that it would be best to spread a virtual meeting over six days from January 5 -10, 2021. We plan on opening registration on or around October 1, 2020 and will publish registration rates by early September. We have begun work on a schedule and appreciate your patience as we continue to work on the logistics and program.

Helen Cullyer, Executive Director, SCS

Rebecca King, Executive Director, AIA

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 08/03/2020 - 10:35am by Helen Cullyer.

GREEK LITERARY TOPOGRAPHIES IN THE ROMAN IMPERIAL WORLD

The Pennsylvania State University, 16-18 April 2021

Workshop Organizers:

Anna Peterson, Penn State

Janet Downie, UNC-Chapel Hill

Keynote Speaker:

Jason König, University of St. Andrews

Confirmed Speakers:

Pavlos Avlamis

Artemis Brod

William Hutton

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 07/31/2020 - 7:27am by Erik Shell.

After many years of offering free language courses to students of popular modern languages such as French, Spanish, Chinese, and German, and to people interested in learning rather more obscure languages such as Esperanto, Klingon, High Valyrian, and Navajo, Duolingo added a Latin course. The course was prepared for Duolingo by the Paideia Institute and was road tested by a group of Duolingo learners before it was made available to the general public. For the past eleven months the Duolingo Latin course has been available for free across all iOS and Android apps as well as on the Duolingo website

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 07/31/2020 - 7:06am by .

The Department of Latin Literature at the University of Basel, Switzerland, is pleased to invite applications for the second round of the Basel Fellowships in Latin Literature. The Visiting Fellowship programme offers an opportunity for early career researchers as well as established scholars to pursue their research in the framework of a fully funded visit of up to three months at the Department Altertumswissenschaften of the University of Basel. During their stay Visiting Fellows are entitled to make full use of the excellent resources of the University Library as well as the departmental library, Bibliothek Altertumswissenschaften, one of the world’s leading research libraries for the study of Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations and the Classics.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Fri, 07/31/2020 - 6:29am by Erik Shell.

The National Humanities Alliance has been researching the field of undergraduate humanities recruitment for more than a year now, identifying compelling initiatives, effective strategies, and leaders in the field. The pandemic, severely strained budgets, and the national reckoning with racial injustice are changing the context in which colleges and universities grapple with strategies for recruiting students to the humanities. NHA has invited deans and humanities center directors to talk with them about how this new context affects their efforts to promote the value of studying the humanities to undergraduates. 

The View from the Dean's Office

Tuesday, July 28th, 1:00 pm, EDT

Deans from a range of institutions will share the recruitment strategies they’ve honed and how they intersect with the current moment. 

Panelists:

Jeffrey Cohen, Dean of Humanities, Arizona State University 

Lena Hill, Dean of the College, Washington and Lee University

Debra Moddelmog, Dean, College of Liberal Arts, University of Nevada, Reno 

Moderator: Scott Muir, Project Director, Study the Humanities, National Humanities Alliance

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 07/27/2020 - 1:16pm by Helen Cullyer.

Identity in Vergil: Ancient Representations, Global Receptions

Symposium Cumanum 2021

June 23-26, Villa Vergiliana, Cuma

Co-Directors: Tedd A. Wimperis (Elon University) and David J. Wright (Fordham University)

Vergil’s poetry has long offered fertile ground for scholars engaging questions of race, ethnicity, and national identity, owing especially to the momentous social changes to which his works respond (Syed 2005; Reed 2007; Fletcher 2014; Giusti 2018; Barchiesi forthcoming). The complexities of identity reflected in his corpus have afforded rich insights into the poems themselves and the era’s political milieu; beyond their Roman context, across the centuries his poetry has been co-opted in both racist and nationalist rhetoric, and, at the same time, inspired dynamic multicultural receptions among its many audiences, from Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech to Gwendolyn Brooks’ The Anniad (e.g. Thomas 2001; Laird 2010; Ronnick 2010; Torlone 2014; Pogorzelski 2016).

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 07/23/2020 - 12:02pm by Erik Shell.

The new Classics Everywhere initiative, launched by the SCS in 2019, supports projects that seek to engage communities worldwide with the study of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. As part of this initiative the SCS has been funding a variety of projects ranging from reading groups comparing ancient to modern leadership practices to collaborations with artists in theater, music, and dance. This post centers on two performances of ancient plays that were canceled when the pandemic put a halt to them last March.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 07/22/2020 - 12:03pm by .

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