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AIA Advocating For The Abolition Of Future Federal Design Mandates.

Recently Designed And Constructed SEC Building

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – WASHINGTON, D.C. –The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is urging Congress to reintroduce legislation prohibiting future administrations and the federal government from mandating preferred design styles for federal buildings.

A new bipartisan bill would prohibit political influence on the design of federal buildings and require transparency in the design process.

“I’m pleased to introduce this important bipartisan legislation that is essential to guaranteeing the future integrity of the Design Excellence Program,” said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV). “It will also ensure that design input for federal buildings flows from local communities and artists to the government, not the other way around. I thank Congressman Simpson for joining me to sponsor this meaningful legislation.”

The “Democracy in Design Act” co-sponsored by Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Mike Simpson (R-ID), would codify the United States General Services Administration’s (GSA) 1962 Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture and prohibit the federal government from mandating any preferred national design style. Additionally, the legislation would protect the Design Excellence Program by requiring the GSA to conduct enhanced formal rulemaking processes — including public comment — for any proposed changes to the Design Excellence Program, which guides the GSA’s acquisition, design, and construction of public buildings. Thus, the legislation would effectively increase transparency and eliminate political influence from the federal design process, while also allowing the program to evolve to meet contemporary needs.

“Recent attempts to establish a federal design mandate demonstrated the crucial need to institute well defined, transparent, and democratic processes around federal design decisions,” said AIA President Peter Exley, FAIA, 2021. We are committed to working with lawmakers who support AIA’s effort to safeguard our nation’s buildings from being subject to political preferences in the future and to ensure public buildings meet the needs of the communities they serve.”

The Biden Administration rescinded the previous Executive Order “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture.” on Feb. 25. Government agencies could use the Executive Order to mandate a particular architectural style for federal courthouses and other federal buildings. Additionally, it elevated “classical” and “traditional” architecture above all other styles and necessitated extensive justification for the use of alternative styles. Additionally, the order misrepresented the GSA’s Design Excellence Program, which the AIA strongly supports. In general, the mandate placed an unjustified premium on the design preferences of a few federal appointees over the needs of the communities in which the buildings would be located.

“What fits for Boise, Idaho doesn’t always work for Washington, DC, and vice versa,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). “I am a cosponsor of this legislation because I don’t want any Administration—Republican or Democrat—to be able to mandate certain architectural styles. Let’s try to keep politics out of the design of our federal buildings.”

Prior to the Biden Administration’s reversal of the Executive Order, Rep. Titus introduced an earlier version of the “Democracy in Design Act” (H.R. 7604) to thwart any mandated design style.The latest version of the bill includes provisions for the General Services Administration’s Design Excellence Program.

For over a year and a half, AIA has pursued a multi-pronged strategy to halt the Executive Order and protect the Design Excellence Program. In February 2020, AIA members sent the White House more than 11,400 letters opposing a mandated design preference. Additionally, AIA leadership sent letters to the Trump Administration opposing the order on Feb. 6, 2020 and Feb. 20, 2020. Additionally, AIA collaborated closely with the Biden Administration in order to successfully reverse the Executive Order.

To learn more about the AIA please visit there website.

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