Architectural excellence is always in style
A message from CAC President and CEO Lynn Osmond
The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) believes that design matters. This means that architecture reflects upon all of us, showing what we value, who we are, and where we are going.
Today, we feel the emphasis on good design that made Chicago’s built environment world-class is threatened by the recently proposed executive order, “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” Consequently, we share concerns expressed by the American Institute of Architects, the Society of Architectural Historians, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin, and a number of other architectural associations and observers regarding its proposed rules.
This executive order would replace the current standards drafted in 1962, which placed design front and center. In the words of the late Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman, “Chicago may be the most modern city on Earth.” Architects strive to understand the history and character of the communities where they live and work. They should be free to leverage this knowledge, in concert with community and constituent involvement, when creating buildings to suit the needs of people and places.
Chicago’s hard-won reputation for design excellence would not be ours to claim had the creativity and ingenuity of professionals, from the Great Chicago Fire forward, been stifled by superficial requirements of style and decoration. “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” would have precluded one of the world’s great examples of architectural modernism, an approach that, like good government, champions clarity, integrity, and transparency. Imagine Chicago without Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Federal Plaza complex.
We should not retroactively discard that achievement—nor preempt innovative approaches now emerging or yet to come—in a quest to elevate just one definition of “beauty” in architecture. Indeed, history is replete with examples of governments that have dictated similarly backward-looking design standards and have failed to achieve Chicago’s remarkable contributions to architecture, design, and engineering.
The CAC firmly believes we must continue to celebrate bold and diverse visions for our built environment by channeling our best, most inclusive ideas.
Lynn J. Osmond
President and CEO
Chicago Architecture Center