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.
Corinthian black-figure terra-cotta votive tablet of slaves working in a mine. One figure is passing a bowl to another, one is carrying a basket, and one is wielding a tool.

Content advisory: this post includes an anti-Black epithet in the recounting of a personal experience.

I have always been interested in history. In high school, I took two history courses that drew my attention to the field. One was required, the typical AP U.S. History, and one was an elective, AP European History. Both courses involved the discussion of slavery and how it affected the development of different world powers. I was not interested in the rise of nations or how they acquired power. The individuals who were used, abused, and marginalized are what I find fascinating about studying history. From high school, my path was clear: study history and, more specifically, study the history of slavery.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 09/10/2021 - 9:51am by .
Text reads "Ego, Polyphemus, a Latin novella by Andrew Olimpi." A blue sky behind an upside-down image of a bald man with gray skin, wearing a black one-shoulder garment, with a single eye in the middle of his forehead.

The sudden rise of Latin novellas might come as a surprise to anyone outside of high-school classrooms. This genre, which didn’t exist seven years ago, now counts over a hundred published works. These novellas are largely written by and for those outside the world of higher ed, but they should be of interest to the larger scholarly community—not just because they will increasingly form the background and expectations of Latin students coming into college, but also because they are one part of a larger pedagogical movement that is in the midst of transforming the teaching of Latin.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 09/07/2021 - 10:18am by .

(Provided by the department at William & Mary)

Chancellor Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies Julian Ward Jones Jr. passed away on August 28, 2021. He was born on July 11, 1930, at Essex County, Virginia and grew up in Fredericksburg. He graduated in 1948 from James Monroe High School as valedictorian. He read Latin at the University of Richmond. During the period 1953-1955, he served as a dental technician in the US Army at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and still found time to read Homer. He pursued a PhD in Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he met his wife, Liz, about whom he had written, “the most brilliant linguist I ever knew.” After two years of teaching at Ohio State University, he accepted a position as Associate Professor at William & Mary in the Department of Ancient Languages in 1961. In his long career at W&M, Professor Jones served as Chair of the Department for over ten years and was instrumental in revising its curriculum and renaming it as the Department of Classical Studies. He also served as the President of several important professional organizations, including the Classical Association of Virginia, the Southern Section of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, and the Mediterranean Society of America.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 09/02/2021 - 9:56am by Erik Shell.

Seventh Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Heritage of Western Greece

Paideia and Performance”

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 09/02/2021 - 9:53am by Erik Shell.
Roman civilians examining the Twelve Tables after they were first implemented.

Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. The Society for Classical Studies’ Communications Committee has approved a few changes to the SCS Blog guidelines, and we thought we’d get the word out about a couple consequential ones.

First, anonymous and pseudonymous posts are no longer strictly out of the question. The new bottom line:

The SCS Blog does not, as a rule, post anonymous content, meaning content written and submitted by one or more authors whose identities are unknown even to the editors of the blog. However, we are aware that there are situations where someone(s) might have valuable insight to share but not be able to do so out of concerns for retaliation or professional repercussions.

We expect anonymous/pseudonymous posts will be rare; in cases where authors seek anonymity/pseudonymity, we have adopted a consent-based confidentiality policy detailed in full on the guidelines page.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 09/02/2021 - 9:27am by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad.
Hephaestus returns to Olympus riding a donkey and carrying hammer and tongs. He is led by Dionysus, who bears a thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) and drinking cup.

Content warning: disability slurs & ableist language

As our culture changes, so, too, does the language that we use. This post is an invitation to discuss what is, at present, a culturally appropriate approach to language for writing or teaching about disability in the ancient world. We must always reflect on the importance of language and strive to learn the best practices for acknowledging the lives of the subjects of our research. At the same time, we must show due respect to our disabled colleagues and students. Our choice of language is important because, statistically speaking, you already have disabled colleagues and students. This is not an issue for other people or another time, but for all of us, disabled and nondisabled, right now.

This is a work in progress, but our goals are threefold: to demystify the language around disability; to encourage you to consider the ways that your language can humanize or dehumanize disabled people, ancient and modern; and to bring new voices to the discussion.

Language and Culture

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 08/30/2021 - 10:18am by .

The Newberry Library invites interested individuals who wish to utilize the Newberry's collection to apply for their many fellowship opportunities in 2022-2023:

The Newberry Library's long-standing fellowship program provides outstanding scholars with the time, space, and community required to pursue innovative and ground-breaking scholarship. In addition to the Library's collections, fellows are supported by a collegial interdisciplinary community of researchers, curators, and librarians. An array of scholarly and public programs also contributes to an engaging intellectual environment.

Long-Term Fellowships are available to scholars who hold a PhD or other terminal degree for continuous residence at the Newberry for periods of 4 to 9 months; the stipend is $5,000 per month. Applicants must hold a PhD or equivalent degree by the application deadline in order to be eligible. Long-Term Fellowships are intended to support individual scholarly research and promote serious intellectual exchange through active participation in the fellowship program. The deadline for long-term fellowships is November 1.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Thu, 08/26/2021 - 3:18pm by Helen Cullyer.
Header image: Telemachus and Mentor in the Odyssey. Ilustration by Pablo E. Fabisch for Aventuras de Telémaco by François Fénelon, 1699. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Organizing a mentorship program was a crucial directive from the earliest days of the Asian and Asian American Classical Caucus. The founding members envisioned building a vibrant community of APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) scholars. Kelly Nguyen, an IDEAL Provostial Fellow at Stanford University and the AAACC’s original Mentorship Coordinator, had been shocked to discover that so many other APIDA classicists even existed. “As we set about to establish the AAACC, we always knew that we wanted the organization to be about community building, but one of the main challenges was finding that community,” she said. “We, the founders, had been surprised to even find each other after all these years of often being the only Asian in the room.” The creation of a mentorship program was important in breaking down the isolation experienced by so many APIDA scholars. “So we set out to fix this visibility issue by creating a strong network of APIDA classicists,” Nguyen recounted. “We thought that one of the best ways to do this [wa]s through a mentorship program where people could form meaningful relationships.”

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 08/23/2021 - 10:09am by .

FemClas 2022, the eighth quadrennial conference of its kind, has been rescheduled from its original dates (delayed by the pandemic) and will now take place on May 19–22, 2022, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at the invitation of the Wake Forest University Department of Classics and Department of Philosophy.  **Virtual presentation and attendance is supported, as well.**  The conference theme is “body/language,” broadly construed, and papers on all topics connected to feminism, Classics, Philosophy, and related fields are welcome.

This conference focuses on the use of the body and/or language to gain, lose, contest, or express power and agency in the ancient Mediterranean world.  Bodies and words, at both the physical and the conceptual levels, can exert disproportionate, oppositional, or complementary forces.  Both have the power to transform their surrounding environments significantly.  Yet there is a problematic dichotomy between body/physicality and language/reason, a problem long noted by philosophers, literary theorists, and social historians. FemClas 2022 seeks to contest, blur, and even eradicate these boundaries through papers, panels, and other programming that promotes interdisciplinary exploration of the ancient world.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 08/20/2021 - 11:44am by Helen Cullyer.
CFP: Forwards and Backwards in Ancient Portraiture (College Art Association, Chicago, 16-19 February, 2022)
 
View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 08/16/2021 - 1:28pm by Erik Shell.

Pages

Latest Stories

Calls for Papers
NATURAL RESOURCES AND FLOURISHING IN ANCIENT GREECE (CFP)
Awards and Fellowships
In 2021, the second year of the 

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy