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Executive Order regarding Classical Architecture

  • 1.  Executive Order regarding Classical Architecture

    Posted 02-10-2020 18:01

    Dear Fellows:  Our profession is being challenged, but I would argue, not on a stylistic basis, but on a value basis.  The merits or demerits of individual styles of architecture fail to illustrate the myriad issues faced by benefactors and designers in their times.  Style for its own sake is worth nothing.  Architecture is more than the sum of its style and system components.  Buildings do not become architecture merely by being buildings; they are architecture by possessing and transmitting transcendent value to society.  The "style police" discussion demonstrates a deeper chasm between the value of our profession and the public that lives within its products.  Technocrats are merely extensions of that divide.  While the AIA did take appropriate action in its 6 February letter to the President, the effects of this "Ah-ha!" moment shouldn't be lost on political disagreements.  The fact that we're even having this discussion underscores a wide gulf between the value that architects and their work and the value that the general public has toward design.  You may recall about five years ago, Prince Charles directly voiced his opinions about contemporary architecture (see this link). While the he carries some influence, the long-term effect appears to have been inconsequential.  In my opinion, a greater design travesty relates to myriad home and garden shows, which feign empowerment to the masses as a thin veil of product commercials, and which distorts the complexity of real design into 30-minute video vignettes for the benefit of the advertisers and product placement gurus.


    So, regarding this current brouhaha, I suggest that all architects seize the opportunity to talk publicly about our profession, our work, and their collective value to shape lives for the better. Consider this current controversy a gift as a platform to discuss the value of design and those that shape it.  Arguing with the style police is akin to elevating designers on television.  Let's be above that and demonstrate our greater value!



          William J. Hercules, FAIA, FACHA, FACHE

          President / CEO

          c:  407.312.1065

          Orlando, Florida, USA




         2018 President, American College of Healthcare Architects


  • 2.  RE: Executive Order regarding Classical Architecture

    Posted 02-12-2020 08:34
    Good thoughts Bill Hercules. I agree. This situation also points to our failure as a profession to educate the public about the reasons behind the design of the many excellent Federal Buildings completed over the last decade and more. We have judges for instance who judge their new courthouses based solely on their "look" and not how they "work." Just on the sustainability front alone we have made incredible progress reducing our carbon footprint nationally and globally. If style is the enemy of sustainability, as I believe, we have our work cut out for us to explain why building performance is essential rather than the simplistic expectations of image. Public ignorance is our enemy. Unfortunately the public includes our audacious elected decision makers who think the "look" of Classicism is what we need. They, in their ignorance, don't understand our value. So letters won't hack it. Let's make a more concerted effort at pointing out the value brought through design excellence. Excellence defined and based on performance rather than the look.

    William Sabatini [FAIA, FACHA]
    Albuquerque NM