Special Statement on Executive Order, February 2020

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) stands squarely behind the statement issued by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in opposition to the potential Executive Order requiring that all Federal architecture be designed in a neoclassical style. While we, as an organization of architects and designers, are capable of appreciating buildings designed in a classical style – both existing and new – the idea that all Federal architecture would be restricted to neoclassical expression is particularly troubling in its cultural exclusivity and imposition of substantial limitations on design thinking.

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. 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 values, ideals, and aspirations for civic architecture that are embodied in the Guiding Principles of Federal Architecture, authored by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, represent the best of who we are as a multi-cultural society seeking to celebrate and give expression to a diverse assemblage of backgrounds, which constitute the core of our American identity. We urge those considering advancing this Executive Order to reconsider such action and to rather build upon the progress made over the past several decades by the GSA and its Design Excellence Program in creating civic architecture that is “of its time and place”.

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA)

February 2020