Posts tagged with "Donald Trump":

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On beauty, value, and justice in federal architecture in America

This past week, a frenzied debate has erupted in response to “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” a draft executive order that, if adopted, would effectively mandate “the classical architectural style” for U.S. federal buildings. Assembled by the National Civic Art Society, a little-known organization dedicated to the promotion of classical architecture and design, the order proposes to rewrite the US General Services Administration’s (GSA) “Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture,” a three-point policy document written in 1962 by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then Special Assistant to the Secretary of Labor, to focus the architectural ambitions of the GSA. Moynihan’s first and third directives aim squarely at design, insisting that federal buildings “reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American National Government” and that careful consideration be given to the building site and the layout of adjacent streets, public spaces, and landscape. His second speaks more generally to matters of architectural style:
The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government. And not vice versa. […] The advice of distinguished architects ought to, as a rule, be sought prior to the award of important design contracts.
The crux of MFBBA’s argument is that Moynihan’s second principle precludes his first. By granting authority on matters of style to architects, it claims, the Guiding Principles supplant the preferences of the American people with “the architectural profession’s reigning orthodoxy.” This, it continues, “implicitly discouraged classical and other designs known for their beauty,” and sanctioned instead modernist, Brutalist, and Deconstructivist buildings which “have little aesthetic appeal,” citing work by Marcel Breuer, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Morphosis, and others as examples. In so doing, the order claims, “the Federal government has largely stopped building beautiful buildings that the American people want to look at or work in.” To encourage the design of buildings that inspire “admiration” instead of “public derision,” the order proposes that “in the National Capital [sic] Region and for all Federal courthouses, the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style absent special extenuating factors necessitating another style.” While this technically leaves open the possibility of non-traditional design, MFBBA sets an extremely high bar for its approval. Brutalism, Deconstructivism, and their derivatives (specified by extremely problematic, open-ended definitions) are excluded outright. Other non-traditional buildings would be permitted to move forward only with approval from the president, who must first be provided with a detailed explanation of “whether such design is as beautiful… as alternative designs of comparable cost in a traditional architectural style.” The term beauty, or one of its derivatives, appears twelve times in MFBBA’s seven pages. Though it is not included in the document’s list of definitions, it is used throughout to signify those qualities that give pleasure to the senses and the intellect. At its core, then, this debate is about more than just architectural style. It is about publicly funded pleasure. The art critic Dave Hickey similarly locates the essence of beauty in pleasure. In his 2009 essay, “American Beauty,” he finds it primarily in the “pleasant surprises” one encounters in everyday life. Such pleasure, whether derived from monumental architecture, a clear blue sky, or a perfectly executed jump shot, often leads people—Americans in particular—to dialog. “Beautiful!” someone exclaims, moved by an arresting object or experience. Others respond, sometimes in agreement, sometimes in dissent. Chatter ensues, occasionally moving toward the consensus from which societies are built. “American beauty is inextricable from its optimal social consequence,” Hickey writes, “our membership in a happy coalition of citizens who agree on what is beautiful, valuable, and just.” In American society, beauty, value, and justice are determined similarly—through the often-contentious debates we conduct in Congress, in court, in the press, in the marketplace, at school, at home, and out in the street. Given the complexity of these collective conversations (and the difficulty of surprising oneself), we often turn to trained experts—elected representatives, lawyers, cultural critics, brokers, artists, architects, and others—to generate possibilities and look after our interests. Though it often seeks guidance in expert opinion, American society is not based on timeless values, religious doctrine, or ancient edicts. It is based on mutual agreement. With the Declaration of Independence, Americans mutually agreed to their collective right to pursue “pleasant surprises” and other forms of happiness, and to tentatively ascribe power to the government to secure that right. This is where it gets complicated. As Hickey points out, every pleasant surprise is an occasion for change, an opportunity to renegotiate our collective agreement regarding what we hold to be beautiful, valuable, and just. Such activity always threatens the stability of the status quo, which is why authoritarian societies often attempt to neutralize such threats by outlawing idiosyncrasy and mandating familiarity. MFBBA adopts exactly this authoritarian posture, though its authors undoubtedly would point to their populist invocations of “the public” and to their proposal that all GSA architectural competitions convene public panels that exclude design and construction professionals as evidence of their efforts to foster exactly the sort of open debate I am advocating. Such arguments would ring false. With their thumb firmly on the scale from the outset, MFBBA’s authors decide in advance the outcome of public deliberation on federal buildings. Their message is clear: When it comes to the most hallowed spaces of our democracy, the American debate on beauty—and by extension, on value and justice – is settled. The authors of “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” thus work entirely on the side of entrenched authority, and rightly recognize the federal buildings of Breuer, Morphosis, Scogin, Elam, and others as subtly subversive. These works signal that the brilliance of American democracy issues from its accommodation of periodic reinvention, from our collective agreement that what we held to be beautiful, valuable, and just yesterday may not align with what we will hold to be so tomorrow. This is not to say that progressive architecture best represents our union, or that classically derived designs can no longer embody American values. It is merely to recognize, as Daniel Moynihan did, that we would do well to continue to draw on “the finest contemporary American architectural thought” to help us determine the best way forward, and to remember that the “dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability” of the American government obtains from the right of its citizens to perpetually renegotiate the terms by which we are governed, to reimagine the values we wish to uphold, and to freely pursue the subversive pleasures of beauty. Todd Gannon is the Robert S. Livesey Professor and head of the architecture section at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School.
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Critics speak out over the draft federal architecture mandate

Everyone from critics to commentators to professional organizations came out swinging this week in reaction to President Trumps draft executive order to impose a neoclassical style (now publicly available) on all future federal architecture. AN reported yesterday that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) released a statement strongly opposing a uniform style, and according to Contract, the organization had prior knowledge of the draft and expressed concerns over it during a mid-January meeting with James Sherk, a top policy aid in the White House In a statement published today by Contract, the AIA issued a letter to Trump after news broke about the leak, asking the president to “ensure that this order is not finalized or executed.” At the time of the aforementioned meeting, the AIA said it believed the draft was not moving forward. “We were shocked and disappointed to hear that it is still in circulation,” the organization wrote in the letter.  The AIA isn’t the only top-level advocacy group in the industry to speak up so far, but it is one of the main avenues for those interested to take action against the draft order, outside of cold-contacting the White House Below, AN broke down highlights from the AIA’s letter to Trump, alongside responses from other major players in the industry:  American Institute of Architects  “The draft we have seen also attempts to define ‘classical architectural style’ to mean architectural features derived from classical Greek and Roman architecture with some allowances for ‘traditional architectural style,’" wrote the AIA in its letter. "Given that the specific type of architecture preferred in the order can increase the cost of a project (to up to three times as much), we would hope the GSA, Congress and others would take pause. Since these costs would have to be borne by U.S. taxpayers, this is not an inconsequential concern… “President Trump, this draft order is antithetical to giving the ‘people’ a voice and would set an extremely harmful precedent. It thumbs its nose at societal needs, even those of your own legacy as a builder and promoter of contemporary architecture. Our society should celebrate the differences that develop across space and time.” The Architecture Lobby  (T-A-L) “Seizing on architectural styles is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes,” wrote The Architecture Lobby in a statement. “The particular appeal to classical architecture often uses the nostalgic appropriation of style by fictionalizing national heritage and manufacturing an ideal subject to marginalize and other while simultaneously claiming moral superiority. The Lobby wants to draw attention to the larger ideological implications this implies, implications that go beyond a conservative approach to style or limitations to freedom of expression. Neoclassicism in the US is directly related with the construction of whiteness. It was whiteness that was sought after in the many plantations houses that chose the style, justifying it as an emulation of ancient Greek ‘culture’ to separate themselves from the Indigenous peoples whose land was stolen ad the enslaved African people forced to build and work in them. Thomas Jefferson’s excitement with the work of the Beaux-Arts school in Paris was motivated by a desire to make America ‘European,’ and white... “Privileging historicist architecture is a common tool of the capitalist class in the United States as well. This tactic is used in planning codes and by homeowners associations to favor traditional aesthetics under the guise of human-centric design, but whose true purpose is to continue the legacy of red-lining by preventing the densification and diversification of neighborhoods. The ultimate goal is to inflate property values and maintain the racial and class segregation of our cities, to create an environment fo capital to continue the destruction of communities through gentrification.  The ‘Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again’ executive order is a reformulation of these local aesthetic strictures at a national level and a blatant attempt to leverage aesthetics in the service of white supremacy.” National Trust for Historic Preservation While the National Trust values—and protects—traditional and classical buildings throughout the country, to censor and stifle the full record of American architecture by requiring federal buildings to be designed, and even altered, to comply with a narrow list of styles determined by the federal government is inconsistent with the values of historic preservation,” wrote the National Trust in a statement. “The draft order would put at risk federal buildings across the country that represent our full American story, and would have a chilling effect on new design, including the design of federal projects in historic districts…We strongly oppose any effort to impose a narrow set of styles for future federal projects based on the architectural tastes of a few individuals that will diminish, now and for the future, our rich legacy of federal architecture.” Vishaan Chakrabarti, Founder of PAU Studio “Like the fundamentalists who desecrated Bamiyan and Palmyra, it is only the most insecure, arrogant and petty of leaders who attempt to remake the world in the delusions of their dominant image,” Chakrabarti said in a statement provided to AN. “Once again the Trump administration is making their hatred of our diversity clear, a hatred we must fight to defend the pluralist idea of America that most of us hold dear. Make no mistake, this is artistic censorship, and censorship is yet another step towards the fascism that clouds our land.” National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) “Diverse cultural influences on the creative expression of our collective built environment is vital to the strength of our society and paramount to our freedom as Americans,” wrote NOMA. “Given the historical significance of NOMA, rooted in the African-American experience, we are especially cognizant of the notion that for many of our members, such buildings in certain contexts stand as symbols and painful reminders of centuries of oppression and the harsh realities of racism. As architects, we are called to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. We have a duty to advocate for design that reflects the values of the people we serve: ALL of the people. The proposed Executive Order, if enacted, would signal the perceived superiority of a Eurocentric aesthetic. This notion is completely unacceptable and counterproductive to the kind of society that fosters justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Freedom of architectural expression is a right that should be upheld at the highest levels of government.”  The Architectural League of New York The Architectural League fundamentally opposes the imposition of a “preferred” style—whether classical or any other—by diktat as the enforced representation of the American people and their institutions,” wrote Paul Lewis, president of The Architectural League NY, and Rosalie Genevro, executive director. “Such a policy would be anathema to the idea of a free, diverse, and inclusive society. “Architecture that represents the American people must be created in response to specific sites and specific needs, responsive to local communities and conditions, drawing on the skills of the country’s most talented architects.” American Society of Landscape Architects  “The American Society of Landscape Architects has profound concerns about a proposed executive order that would impose uniform style mandates on federal building projects,” said Wendy Miller, president of ASLA. “Our nation’s design professionals are admired around the world for their creativity, innovation, and diversity of thought. Designers of the built environment should not be confined by arbitrary constraints that would limit federal building projects to a single style.  ASLA believes that the public interest is best served by a collaborative place-based process that continues to produce federal projects that reflect the unique needs and values of each community and its citizens.” Docomomo US “The draft executive order which states, “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style’ would roll back Federal architectural policy by nearly sixty years and set a dangerous precedent for how we value our nation’s architectural diversity and history," said Todd Grover, the vice-president of advocacy, at Docomomo US. “We, along with our colleagues at the American Institute of Architects (AIA), oppose this change in policy to promote any style of architecture over another for federal buildings across the country. This decision could create long-standing issues with new and also existing facilities that have achieved significance since the 1960s.”
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Trump administration begins blasting through an Arizona National Monument to erect border wall

With just under nine months until the United States presidential election, the Trump administration is pushing ahead with last-ditch efforts to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and it seems not even a National Monument can stand in its way. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contractors have recently been instructed to blast through Monument Hill in the southernmost section of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a 500-square-mile park on the southern Arizona border that had been designated a United States National Monument and a UNESCO biosphere reserve, to erect another portion of the barrier. Indigenous and environmental activists have actively protested on the site since November of last year, informing the administration that the site is not only a valuable ecological site, but also one of spiritual and cultural importance to the Tohono O'odham Nation, a Native American people of the Sonoran Desert. Despite the fact that large swaths of the park have yet to be documented for uncharted ancient archaeological sites and animal habitats, demolition across the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument will continue unabated throughout the next month. Raúl Grijalva, the U.S. Representative for Arizona's 3rd congressional district, has stated that while the government has hired an environmental monitor, he believes little attention will be paid to preserving sites sacred to the Tohono O'odham Nation. “How would we feel,” Grijalva argued in a video posted to Twitter, “if a foreign nation came into the United States and began to dig up Arlington National Cemetery? Or if they began to desecrate cemeteries across the country?” He then committed to visiting with members of the O’odham Nation and others invested in the site to assess the damage that has already taken place. The DHS has already uprooted several saguaro cacti to make way for a makeshift roadway to be used for construction vehicles and drained water from a desert aquifer below the terrain to mix the concrete necessary for the 30-foot-tall barrier planned for the site. If the wall is completed, its floodlights and divisive siting will interrupt the migration of several native animal species.
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AIA rejects Trump’s draft order for uniform federal architecture style

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) issued a response yesterday to the potential executive order that could force all future federal buildings to be designed in the neoclassical style.  On Twitter, the organization rejected the Trump administration’s proposal, stating:
“The AIA strongly opposes uniform style mandates for federal #architecture. Architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture, and climates. Architects are committed to honoring our past as well as reflecting our future progress, protecting the freedom of thought and expression that are essential to democracy.” 
Yesterday, Architectural Record published news that it had access to a draft of the White House order which implied that the President wanted the Guiding Principles of Federal Architecture to be rewritten in favor of creating a singular style. Neoclassicism, the design style that the founding fathers chose for the U.S. Capitol, would become the “preferred and default style” under this new rule and would change the core value of the General Service Administration’s Design Excellence Program Rather than pre-qualified architects receiving the chance to design uniquely-contemporary federal structures for the cities they serve, all future government buildings would instead be reminiscent of the monumental, white construction that has defined Washington, D.C., since its inception, as well as the structures built-in ancient Rome and Greece, and more recently, in Hitler’s Third Reich. Tradition is beautiful, the order argued; modernism (especially Brutalism and Deconstructivism) is ugly. Case in point: the draft order was titled “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” Numerous classicism-loving groups feel the same way. On Twitter, several accounts called out the AIA for showing its “true colors,” accusing the organization of being opposed to “beauty and tradition.” Fast Company spoke to Steven Heller, co-chair of the MFA design program at the School of Visual Arts, who clarified that it’s not uncommon for governments to impose a preferred design style as a way to indicate authority. Think the projects built during the Works Progress Administration under FDR.  Still, Heller said this move by the White House signals a larger issue: “When one design style is preferred over another, that may be construed as an aesthetic preference,” he told Fast Company. “But when it is linked to a presidential act of decree, especially a president that exhibits authoritarian tendencies, then there is reason for alarm. We tend to ignore the nuances of power, like graphics and architecture styles, until it’s too late.”  
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[Updated] Potential executive order might force neoclassical style on federal buildings

Update 2/6/20: The Chicago Sun-Times published the full draft executive order yesterday. Read the 8-page document here Among the top news headlines in the country today, the Trump administration apparently hates contemporary architecture.  Architectural Record has reportedly obtained a draft executive order titled, “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” in which the White House will dictate that all future government structures be designed in the neoclassical style. It would force the General Service Administration (GSA) to rewrite the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, which it has used as the basis of its Design Excellence Program since 1962, while requiring all new and upgraded federal buildings to be designed in the antiquated “preferred and default style.”  Originally written by former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the principals distinctly noted that when it comes to federal architecture, “an official style must be avoided” and that any new structures must reflect the time period in which they are designed. “Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government, and not vice versa,” Moynihan wrote at the time. Throughout the last six decades, high-profile architects have relished the opportunity to make their stamp on the U.S. government. To Moynihan, the collaboration between architecture, the fine arts, and public officials was to be viewed as part of upholding democracy.  But it appears that Trump wants to say goodbye to designing for democracy and more specifically, to Brutalism and Deconstructivism, according to the draft. While it’s no secret that the President dislikes Brutalism—he’s previously decried that the FBI’s downtown Washington, D.C., headquarters should be remodeled or demolished. The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover Building, designed by Charles F. Murphy and Associates, sits directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Trump International Hotel, a historic, romanesque revival building. Many hotels in the Trump chain feature glass and steel, similar to those found in New York and Chicago.  Several high-design federal buildings throughout various U.S. cities, according to the draft order, have “little aesthetic appeal,” Record noted, and don’t embody the country’s “self-governing ideals.” Among those citied were San Francisco’s U.S. Federal Building by Morphosis and Miami’s Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. U.S. Courthouse by Arquitectonica. Both were built in 2007 and stand boxy and tall, featuring modern materials such as metal rainscreens on the former and a glass curtain wall on the latter.  Trump’s turn to classicism, though semi-surprising, shouldn’t completely catch architects off guard, however. Back in 2018, AN reported that he had appointed a staunch classicist to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (and another one as late as last December) in favor of securing approval on future neoclassical projects. The draft order documents that President Trump aims to create a Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture as well, which is reminiscent of the late Sir Roger Scruton’s push to build more beautiful homes and communities throughout the United Kingdom in a self-avowed anti-modernist fashion.  The news comes just one week after the GSA’s Chief Architect and Director of Design Excellence, David Insinga, reportedly resigned from his post. He had served largely under the Trump administration since December 2016 and made it clear from the start that he sought to improve sustainability and reduce energy usage across federal buildings. So far, Insinga has not commented on his departure.
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Cultural sites under attack in the age of unaccountability

In a manner befitting of the current American presidency, Donald Trump’s casual tweet “....we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!” aired some forty-eight hours ago. In fact, the president’s threat does not merit further comment beyond what has been articulated widely in the press: to destroy cultural sites would be an illegal act, and moreover a war crime. Trump’s threat has already been retracted by the Pentagon in what is, by now, a common pattern of contradictory communications so endemic of this administration. The fifty-two target sites in Iran are claimed to be symbolically linked to the fifty-two American citizens that Iran held hostage in 1979, as if those individuals asked for retribution after forty years. For those of us who remember the hostage crisis and the 444 days of suffering it created, the trauma was real and the political implications have remained intact for over forty years. But for those who remember a generation prior, we are reminded of the infamous 1953 American intervention in Iran that sowed the seeds of systematic mistrust, when a U.S. administration participated in a coup that overthrew a democratically elected Mossadegh to reinstate the Shah’s dictatorship that would guarantee American access to oil. Indeed, the Iranian Revolution may have crested in 1979, but its roots can be linked to an earlier upheaval where the American involvement cannot be understated. As the White House scrambles to justify recent actions, we are wise to recall that the direct U.S. involvement and complicity in the creation and destruction of nations is not restricted to the Iranian experience. Iraq is now reliving its own trauma, the result of rogue American judgment and the coercion of a prior U.S. administration, whose facts were not only flawed but intentions clearly motivated by an a priori decision to occupy a foreign land without any appeal to the truth. The more significant question that underlies this premise is to what degree the United States can be held accountable in the International Court of Justice in the Hague for its crimes. The United States is not a State Party to the Rome Statute which founded the International Criminal Court. By refusing to participate, the U.S. also sees itself as exempt from the international system that attempts to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. Insofar as the destruction of cultural sites continues to fall under these protective measures of the World Court, then the aim of this piece is also to demonstrate a broader link between cultural heritage, foreign policy, and a system of governance on which we can rely for checks and balances, both national and international. Though not visible at first sight, the environmental policies that drive foreign affairs is also at the center of this narrative, making important links between the American way of life and its reliance of fossil fuels, the very factor that is coming to challenge how we view the environment, whether in cultural or ecological terms. A rudimentary scan through the various heritage sites in Iran unearths a wide variety of cultural significance, protected by both World and National Heritage registers, identifying the very diversity of this region’s history. Indeed, even if the current regime’s theocracy has only enjoyed about forty years of leadership, Iran is composed of many people, tribes, and religions including Zoroastrians, Christians, Jewish, Bahai, and of course Muslims, both Sunni and Shiite. The country’s cities are known for the many contributions they have made to art, science, and architecture, as made apparent through works of infrastructure, urbanism, landscape, architecture, sustainability, and building technologies. The “Qanat” of Gonabad is estimated to be 2700 years old and an early invention of an underground aqueduct, an infrastructural system designed for arid climates –allowing provisions for agriculture, bathing, drinking water, and human survival. In turn, the urban promenade that binds Naqshe Jahan Square, the Bazaar, and the Si-o-se-pol Bridge on the Zayandeh Rud in Isfahan forms one of the most significant examples of urban design known to the discipline. The housing fabric of Kashan and their contained landscapes, “Hayats” and “Baghs”, are the basis for some of the early doctrines of landscape architecture. The wind-catching “Badgir” towers of the Yazd houses are some of the earliest examples of sustainable cooling strategies of this region’s architecture. Of course, beyond public monuments like the well-known Shah and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosques, there are many other classic icons, like the Soltanieh Mosque, whose double-shell dome is one of the most innovative engineering feats of its time, built some one hundred years prior to Brunelleschi’s in Florence. Some of the earlier passages of the region’s heritage go back to Antiquities, and Pasargad, Persepolis, and the cube of Zoroaster take us back to a time when Persia’s international relations formed a completely different dynamic with Greece. Of that era, the Cyrus Cylinder, dating back to the 6th century B.C. remains maybe one of the earliest artifacts to document the idea of a unified state under higher governance with a direct appeal to human rights as part of its contribution to humanity. Thus, while examining the current political predicaments of our moment, it is important to look at this culture’s history, with over 3000 years of documented heritage, to establish how the diversity of its people come to contribute to the legacy of world culture, and indeed, part of its living history. While few will challenge American generosity in the Second World War and its seminal role in building an alliance that addressed war crimes that defined the 20th Century, the White House’s self-entitlement today is a means to escape the very standards of law and democracy that stoke our national pride and the civil values foundational to American society. Ironically, this sense of entitlement is also foundational to what has allowed the Trump administration to relieve itself of accountability for other questionable actions over the past three years—a factor that prior generations of American leaders could neither have calculated nor fathomed. Sadly, this administration’s hubris is now part of this nation’s ethos; reversing it will be a task to reckon with in the coming years, if not decades, and it will fall on the collective shoulders of the entire nation to address. As we ponder the American omnipresence in the Middle East, Australia burns with a vengeance, a disaster seemingly unrelated to Iran in both cause and effect. And while it burns, the country’s Prime Minister returns from a family vacation in Hawaii, only after being compelled by mounting political pressure, too little too late. With all the scientific evidence behind the sources of global warming and its impact on climate change, Prime Minister Morrison remains unswerving in his commitment to the investments of fossil fuels, coal and the many policies his party holds dear in its commitment to profit. In this sense, Morrison follows a path no different than that of his American cohorts, whose military presence in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, among other places in the Middle East has defined American foreign policy for decades. Beyond the social, economic, and cultural upheaval, industry-first policies have produced the injustice of climate inequity, the very phenomenon that stands to compromise not so much humanity (although it will) but the ecosystems, flora, and fauna that do not have the legal instruments to protect themselves. Thus, the American immunity to the World Court is no small issue, because the scale of its ramifications can only be measured in relation to global forces, not merely national ones. It will only be a matter of time when the balance of world economies in Asia take a turn towards other super-powers whose might will define America’s position in the future world order. However, the imposition of their reign may not be paired with the promise of democracy, equity, or a civil society; it is at that junction when we, as Americans, will regret to have abandoned the very values for which we would want to be known today and for history to have recorded for the future. By absolving ourselves of international responsibilities in the World Court today, the US guarantees precedence for others to do the same in the future. Moreover, the current U.S. administration’s abandonment of collaborative dialogue with the United Nations, UNESCO, The Paris Accord and other world bodies only exacerbates the possibilities of other rogue states, whose strategic interests in the future might be to establish their primacy over the greater good of a global community. Trump’s disregard for democratic institutions, collective processes, and legal frameworks is only radicalized by his penchant to isolate individuals or smaller interest groups as a basis for assault. His current bombast on Iran is no different from what we have witnessed him unleash on African Americans, women, Mexican immigrants, the LBGTQ community, and many others whose diverse backgrounds, belief systems and ways of life differ from his own. Within this context, the destruction of cultural heritage sites can only be interpreted as a targeted attack on the very significance of cultural diversity, and the role that monuments play in the representation of a people. I am reminded of the vacuous niches that once held the monuments of Bamiyan. Magnificent Buddhas were destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban in an act of brutality, using cultural artifacts as pawns to eviscerate an ‘other’ culture than that of their own. Among other things, the Rome Statute was put in place precisely to protect from such eventualities. Trump’s prejudicial pattern of destruction is perhaps even more sinister because it is inflicted without pause. Some have misperceived Trump’s thuggish mockery of Greta Thunberg—an enlightened embodiment of the next generation—as an assault on an individual. Indeed, it was, but it was also a concurrent assault on the collective: on civil society, on a cultural heritage, on critical discourse, and in the age of Thunberg, on the global environment. Within this context, it is virtually implausible to make a case for the protection of cultural heritage without reinforcing the very foundations on which they rely: A global environment that is sustainable, and a faith in governance and policies of stewardship that can uphold it. The individual and the collective take on a different resonance in the context of Trump as a person and the system of governance that supports him. It is completely understandable that an individual may not be able to comprehend the basic tenets of fairness, decency or democracy; less digestible is witnessing an entire political party that shuts its eyes to a pattern of behavior that has demonstrated itself to be no accident. There may be no larger strategy to this president’s actions, but there is nothing unpremeditated: Trump behaves the way he does by design. More alarmingly, an entire Republican party behind him, composed of hundreds of individual leaders, support his illegal actions, whether in enunciated defense or silence. Without a restoration of democracy, in the way in which this country’s founders had imagined, it is hard to conceive how its politicians can advance collective agendas that transcend the terms of party lines, and moreover world politics, whose relevance to the United States should be heeded. The Iranian Revolution occurred in 1979, and its current regime is well-aware of its statute of limitations; with a population of 81 million people –that is, 43 million more than the time of the revolution—the Iranian government understands that its youthful majority can only thrive with a completely different interaction with the international sphere. Despite its acrimony with the West, the achievements of the nuclear deal set in place with the former U.S. administration demonstrated wisdom from both the East and the West. Gain can only come from good communication, collaboration and an appeal to an expanded discursive field. Here, I would argue, the nuclear deal (JCPOA) was not actually the only target, but the means to develop a discussion that could be temporally transported to future administrations: effectively to build better collaborations over time. Ironically, the Mullahs clearly understood the impending dangers of obsolescence; in order to survive, they could no longer isolate themselves from the world. The current isolationist doctrine of the United States has not only alienated its conventional adversaries; recklessly, but it has also distanced itself from the very allies that hold their connection to America so dear. For America to remain relevant to these audiences, the first step will be to recognize the all-important inter-relationship between global phenomena that sees no borders. Whether considering climate change, economic equity, fair trade policies, or the mutual respect of other’s heritage, an integrated view of world interests might be the only way for securing American priorities in a meaningful way. The monuments that populate seemingly remote regions of the world are not the ‘other’ of America; they are its foundation, its source, and its reference, and once we recognize America’s diversity again, we can also re-enter the global dialogue. An understanding of shared governance may also be the only path towards a strategic plan for survival: there is no America once the global sphere is compromised beyond repair. The disengagement of these relationships can only help to obscure the many causalities that have given rise to the dire state of affairs today. Nader Tehrani is founding principal of NADAAA, a practice dedicated to the advancement of design innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and an intensive dialogue with the construction industry. Tehrani is also Dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union.
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Stephen Ross steps down from The Shed's board amid Trump criticism

After a controversy over his fundraising for Donald Trump, Stephen M. Ross, the real estate billionaire of Hudson Yards infamy, has stepped down from The Shed’s board of directors. Hyperallergic reported last week that The Shed, a contemporary arts center which opened this past April in Hudson Yards, confirmed Ross's departure “to focus on his other philanthropic activities.” The development mogul, whose organization, The Related Companies, is associated with the luxury fitness brands SoulCycle and Equinox as well as the Momofuku and Bluestone Lane franchises, has been at the center of protests after it was unveiled in August that he was planning to host a fundraiser for Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Ross, a longtime Republican donor, defended his track record as “an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education, and environmental sustainability.” As previously reported, in addition to facing boycott threats, several high-profile designers backed out of shows to be hosted at The Shed amid the controversy and artists staged on-site protests of Ross's history as a donor.  The Shed itself has also faced its fair share criticism. It recently announced its 2020 line-up featuring a diverse group of voices such as Claudia Rankine and British playwright Arinzé Kene. In the wake of Ross's departure, a spokesperson for the art space told Hyperallergic they were “grateful for his service and his important role in helping found The Shed.”
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Will this airport engineer be the next Architect of the Capitol?

On Monday, President Trump announced J. Brett Blanton as his nomination for the Architect of the Capitol (AOC).  Blanton is currently the deputy vice president for engineering at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority where he leads the planning, design, construction, and code enforcement for all properties controlled by the Airports Authority. While in the United States Navy he also oversaw “some of the largest infrastructure projects undertaken by the Department of the Navy,” according to the Whitehouse’s website All that said, Blanton is a licensed engineer (in the state of Georgia) but is not a licensed or practicing architect. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy, followed by a Master of Science in Ocean Engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.  If confirmed by the United States Senate, Blanton will serve a 10-year term and will be put in charge of maintaining the 18.4 million square foot Capitol complex, which includes Washington, D.C., landmarks such as the Library of Congress, U.S. Supreme Court building and Senate and House office buildings.  The previous AOC, Stephen T. Ayers, served from 2010 through November 2018 and oversaw the restoration of the U.S. Capitol Dome and the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. He also launched the renewal of the Cannon House Office Building, a monumental, five-phase project that Blanton would take over during his term. Ayers completed his Bachelor of Science in Architecture at the University of Maryland and received his Master of Science in Systems Management from the University of Southern California, as well as an honorary Doctor of Public Design from the Boston Architectural College in recognition of his work in historic preservation.  According to Engineering News-Record, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee will have a scheduled confirmation hearing for Blanton on December 12.
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AIA urges Trump to reverse decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement

Yesterday President Trump formally notified the United Nations that he intends to pull the United States from the Paris Agreement, which he had been promising to do since he took office in 2017. In response to the Trump administration’s notice, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) called for the decision to be reversed.  “The AIA deplores the administration’s shortsighted decision,” said AIA 2019 president William Bates in a statement. “The economic impact of the United States as a participant in the Paris Agreement is a fraction of the toll we will pay if we do not make climate action a top priority as a nation. The stakes couldn’t be higher—a reversal of this decision is critical.” Nearly 200 countries signed the accord in November 2016, which served as a collective pledge to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world. President Obama brought the U.S. into the agreement, but President Trump—who once described climate change as a “hoax”—has been warning neighboring nations that he would withdraw. As of Monday, the first day possible to do so, the Trump administration submitted its intentions to remove the U.S. from the agreement. It will take a year for the formal exit to go into effect on November 4, 2020—the day after the 2020 election.   While cities and states across America from Seattle to Los Angeles, Maine, New York State, and even Washington, D.C., have announced individual plans to go carbon neutral in the decades to come, having little-to-no federal oversight is still not acceptable to many believers in climate change, including several architects. AIA’s Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy said the “abdication of America’s leadership on climate action undermines our nation’s credibility on the global stage.”  When AN reported earlier this year on the Green New Deal, design industry leaders noted how the impact of climate issues goes beyond global warming. While the Green New Deal calls for decarbonization across the entire U.S. economy, it also pushes the idea that a carbon-free economy is a socially-just one, too. That means thinking beyond environmental impact and shifting the focus to public projects that benefit all people, like affordable housing.  The AIA and many among the architectural community, in general, aim to solve the climate crisis by promoting healthy building design and reducing carbon waste during and after construction. In August, many architects took to the streets for the Global Climate Strike with climate activist Greta Thunberg. Even if President Trump is able to get what he wants by removing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, there are a number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates running against him who have trillion-dollar plans to reverse his damage. Regardless, the AIA has announced its opposition to the president’s move this week and urges him to think again:  “In order to move the needle on this global crisis, it will take the efforts of every industry, every company, and every citizen in the United States as well as the leadership of the United States government,” said Ivy. “The AIA will continue to prioritize climate action in an effort to support architects—and the entire design and construction field—in this critical role.” 
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Border wall construction could destroy 22 archaeological sites across Arizona

A new 123-page report by the National Park Service (NPS) has detailed the potential loss of ancient artifacts at the southern border as the United States continues to construct an extensive border wall. The culmination of a project conducted by NPS archaeologists at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the report highlights up to 22 endangered archaeological sites along a short stretch of the wall's path. The report, obtained by The Washington Post via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), is especially significant because of its authorship; the internal report shows concern coming directly from a sector of the federal government. The Organ Pipe Cactus area, which is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, received U.S. National Monument status in 1937. The area covers 330,688 acres of desert land southwest of Phoenix, and the 11.3-mile strip along the border has already seen significant physical damage from increased traffic of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents using all-terrain vehicles. The proposed plan to replace the existing 5-foot-tall vehicle barrier with a 30-foot illuminated steel wall has the potential to cause irreparable damage to archaeological fragments spanning the area’s 16,000 years of inhabitation. Concerns also stem from the ecological implications of dropping such a towering structure in a designated biosphere reserve. Environmentalists have repeatedly fought the federal government’s plans to run the wall through protected areas like the this, citing impositions on wildlife migration and the neglect of critically endangered species. Of particular concern is the Quitobaquito Springs area, an oasis 200 feet from the barrier that is inhabited by a number of threatened and declining species. The identification of these risks comes at a time when CBP is scrambling to complete 500 miles of barrier before the 2020 election at the request of President Trump. As the president continues to share the wall’s progress on social media, his administration continues to fight off lawsuits over construction on protected lands. Construction on the Organ Pipe Cactus reserve-area border wall officially began last month, as construction geared up for part of a 43-mile fence span that also cuts through Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Regufe. Kevin Dahl, Arizona’s senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, described how the time constraints are eliminating steps in the careful process of protecting Arizona’s archaeological sites: “Archaeology takes time, and they have a deadline,” Dahl told The Washington Post. “Putting a wall there is insane. This is just one more reason why ramming this wall through, using illegal, unconstitutional money, is damaging to these public resources. We’re destroying what the wall is supposed to protect.”
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Trump's Grand Hyatt New York will be demolished, replaced with offices

The Grand Hyatt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, once owned and reclad by President Trump, is headed for the wrecking ball. A new joint development by TF Cornerstone, RXR Realty, and MDS Capital has been announced in its place and will feature 2 million square feet of office and retail space, as well as a brand new identity for the Grand Hyatt. Located at 109 East 42nd Street, just southeast of Grand Central Station, the 26-floor structure wasn’t always a Trump hotel. In fact, it’s 100 years old. Built in 1919 by the Bowman-Biltmore Hotels group, the Commodore Hotel was originally a brick-clad building with over 2,000 rooms and a world-renowned lobby. In the late ’70s, the Trump Organization purchased and remodeled the entire structure for $100 million, redoing the facade with its now-signature all-reflective-glass curtain wall. It then reopened in 1980 as the Grand Hyatt New York. AN’s editor in chief Bill Menking wrote that the story behind the hotel revamp and the addition of the sign-slash-restaurant that hovers above the sidewalk on 42nd Street is a prime illustrative tale of negative development in New York.  Construction on the new building is expected to cost $3 billion. It will include 500 rooms for the luxury Grand Hyatt New York and state-of-the-art office space. Major transit upgrades could also come with the development, enhancing the pedestrian experience near Grand Central and offering better circulation and connectivity to the currently congested subway beneath it. A new entrance has also been discussed.  No architect has been chosen for the design project yet, though the development team aims to announce one soon. When complete, the new structure will join a handful of other commercial office towers in the area that have popped up since the 2017 rezoning in Midtown East. Progress on One Vanderbilt by Kohn Pedersen Fox, Tower Fifth by Gensler and Adamson Associate Architects, and JP Morgan Chase’s 270 Park Avenue by Foster + Partners is already underway. 
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What do architects think about Related Companies' Stephen Ross fundraiser for Trump?

Ahead of today’s planned fundraiser for President Donald Trump in Southhampton, organized by the billionaire CEO and chairman of The Related Companies Stephen Ross, people have taken to Twitter to denounce their support of any and all things that Related owns, including Hudson Yards. Even celebrity chef José Andres, who has a new food hall inside the mega-development, took to the social media platform asking Ross to cancel the event. As this conversation grows louder and louder—and people continue to boycott companies like Equinox, SoulCycle, and Bluestone Lane Coffee (the two former fitness groups have facilities in 33 and 35 Hudson Yards respectively), it's fair to ask: Will architects join in the discussion? And if so, when? Related owns a slew of properties in the United States, from New York to Miami, as well as in London and Abu Dhabi. Phase one of Hudson Yards on the far west side of Manhattan’s opened earlier this spring to mixed reviews and is successfully attracting throngs of people who are spending countless hours and dollars shopping around the $25 billion site. The Shed, the transformative arts venue designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group, was built on city-owned property and is not directly affiliated with Hudson Yards, but no doubt the recent news may rock its fall season of already-planned performances. In fact, one fashion designer, Prabal Gurung, announced he's canceling a show that was in talks to be located at the Vessel after hearing about Ross's ties to Trump. New York Fashion Week was supposed to be hosted at Hudson Yards in the coming years.  Buildings aren’t necessarily something one can boycott or at least totally ignore. They are a basic human necessity and provide tangible shelter. But the towering monoliths at Hudson Yards weren’t conceived to shelter your average New Yorker. What’s done is done and Hudson Yards is here, and a number of prominent firms contributed to the project's first phase, including Kohn Pederson Fox, Skidmore Owings & Merill, Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects The next few years of construction, set to start late next year, will see the build-out of designs by Gehry Partners, Santiago Calatrava, Robert A.M. Stern, and more by Heatherwick Studio. So this leads us to ask: Like Jose Andres, artist Jerry Saltz, and other figures who've laid bare their frustrations with Ross in the last 24 hours, will architects vocalize their political views and become part of this conversation? AN has reached out to a number of firms who’ve worked on Hudson Yards and will update this story when we hear back.