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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H. Don Cameron (1934-2021), Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, passed away on July 17, 2021. Among his many achievements, Professor Emeritus Cameron was the recipient of the 1987 APA Award for Teaching Excellence at the Collegiate Level.

A full obituary and tribute, written by Benjamin Fortson of the University of Michigan, is available online: https://lsa.umich.edu/classics/news-events/all-news/search-news/remembering-don-cameron.html

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Mon, 07/26/2021 - 6:49pm by Helen Cullyer.
ACLS logo

An announcement from the ACLS:

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is pleased to announce our 2021-22 fellowship and grant competitions. Our online application system is now open for programs with September and October deadlines.

ACLS offers fellowship and grant programs that promote research across the full spectrum of humanities and interpretive social science fields. ACLS invites applications from scholars on and off the tenure track. 

Our peer review and award processes aim to promote inclusive excellence, and we welcome applicants from groups that are underrepresented in the academic humanities and from across the diverse landscape of higher education.

Detailed information including Fall 2021 deadlines is available at: https://www.acls.org/Fellowship-and-Grant-Programs/Competitions-and-Dead...

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 07/26/2021 - 6:39pm by Helen Cullyer.
Cover of Euripides' The Trojan Women: A Comic, by Rosanna Bruno and Anne Carson

By Christopher Trinacty, Emma Glen, and Emily Hudson (Oberlin College)

Anne Carson’s celebrated adaptations and translations of Ancient Greek and Latin literature have ranged from imagining the love affair between Geryon and Heracles in The Autobiography of Red to meditating about the death of her brother through Catullus 101 in Nox. In our opinion, Carson’s works highlight her theoretical sophistication as well as her deep commitment to the reception of Classics broadly understood. This new “comic” version of Euripides’ Trojan Women by Carson and illustrator Rosanna Bruno offers a creative and challenging take on Euripides’s tragedy.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 07/23/2021 - 12:45pm by .

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.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:18pm by Erik Shell.

Call for Papers

Saturday, February 26, 2022 

University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) 

 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:12pm by Erik Shell.

Call for Proposals – Symposium Cumanum 2022

The Vergilian Society seeks proposals for the twenty-eighth annual Symposium Cumanum, to take place at the Harry Wilks Study Center at the Villa Vergiliana in Cuma, Italy in late June 2022. We will consider a proposal on any theme pertaining to Vergil and his times, although preference may be given to a subject that has not been treated recently. Descriptions of previous symposia can be found on the Vergilian Society website, at https://www.vergiliansociety.org/symposium_cumanum/

Each proposal should be prepared by the person who is intending to direct the symposium, or by the lead person if co-directors are envisioned.  The successful director will have logistical assistance from the Vergilian Society’s Italian staff and from the executive committee; a set of guidelines is available to assist in planning.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 07/12/2021 - 10:09am by Erik Shell.
Young man with a volumen, fresco from Pompeii, 1st c.C.E., Naples.

Our fifth interview in the Contingent Faculty Series is a virtual conversation between Dr. Taylor Coughlan and Dr. Daniel Libatique.  Dr. Libatique is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics at the College of the Holy Cross, from which he received his undergraduate degree and where he has taught since 2018. Daniel received his Ph.D. from Boston University in 2018, and his research interests include Augustan literature, Greek drama, gender politics and sexuality, reception studies, and student-centered pedagogy. In his research, Daniel’s approaches to texts often leverage various modern theoretical frameworks, including narratology and performance theory. His publications investigate topics like the cultural reception of Ovid in our modern #MeToo era, the creation of a Latin curriculum based on morphological and syntactic frequencies in real Latin texts, and attributions of speech in the fragments of Sophocles’ Tereus. Daniel is also heavily involved in the application of digital humanities to the study of Classics and is currently working with his colleagues at Holy Cross to restructure their introductory Greek curriculum. For more of Daniel’s work, check out his website.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 07/12/2021 - 10:02am by Daniel Libatique.

(Sent on behalf of Athanassios Vergados)

We are pleased to announce the programme of our upcoming conference on ‘Reflections on Language in Early Greece’ that will take place on-line via Zoom on 1st-3rd September 2021. To obtain the zoom details, please register at https://newcastleuniversity.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZArdO-uqzwsEtCNY8qTfKAbs9cvCEPsZr17.

Please note that all times are GMT+1 (UK time).

 

 

1st September

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Fri, 07/09/2021 - 9:07am by Erik Shell.

AIA and SCS have been working on detailed plans for our 2022 joint Annual Meeting based on the results of our recent survey. Since 60% of respondents expressed a preference for a hybrid meeting, we are planning for our first ever hybrid conference in January 2022. This means speakers will be able to present in person in San Francisco or remotely in each session, and attendees will be able to attend sessions in the hotel or virtually. This is an ambitious undertaking and some elements of the conference cannot easily have a hybrid format; for example, social events will need to be either in person or virtual. However, we aim to make the meeting as hybrid as is feasible given logistics, costs, and staff capacity.  We anticipate a two-tier scale of registration rates, with virtual attendance costing less than in person attendance. There are many details still to be worked out, so please bear with us and we will update you later this Summer and in the Fall.

Members who made submissions to the SCS program committee this spring can expect to receive notification emails about the program committee’s decisions within the next few days.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 07/07/2021 - 6:46am by Helen Cullyer.
The Death of Caesar, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1867. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today marks half a year since insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, occupied the Senate chamber, violently assaulted Capitol Police defending the building, and threatened to assassinate the then-Vice President and other elected officials. In recent days, the House of Representatives has approved a plan for a formal investigation — on partisan lines, after Senate Republicans previously blocked the passage of a bipartisan, 9/11-style commission approved by the House in a bipartisan vote.

We mustn’t forget the assault on the peaceful transition of power, on the foundations of American democracy itself. And we shouldn’t forget that the insurrection is tied up with racist receptions of ancient Greece and Rome. Some insurrectionists came in Greek or Roman-themed cosplay, after all, and the right has long had a dangerous fascination with Sparta.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 07/06/2021 - 9:57am by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad.

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