New Design Mandate Bills Prohibit Freedom of Expression

AIA Chicago members meeting with Rep. Mike Quigley's Legislative Director

AIA Chicago members meeting with Rep. Mike Quigley's Legislative Director

AIA Fights for Community Participation in Democracy for Design Act

WASHINGTON – July 6, 2023 – Amidst a recent salvo from special interests to dictate specific design styles, AIA is standing firmly against any federal mandates on architectural design styles and other forms of freedom of design and artistic expression. In fact, in February of this year (during AIA’s 2023 Leadership Summit), architects from across the country visited Capitol Hill to advocate the importance of design freedom in over 280 Lobby Day meetings with federal policymakers. 
The recently introduced bills directly track with the 2021 Executive Order (EO) issued by the outgoing Trump Administration, titled “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture,” which AIA also staunchly opposed then. AIA has mobilized its 96,000 members around the issues and is working with state components to educate lawmakers where there is current support for these renewed mandates.
AIA remains undeterred in its support of H.R. 964/S. 366, the Democracy in Design Act, a bipartisan legislation authored in the House by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), and Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA); and in the Senate by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), and Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN). This legislation would require General Services Administration (GSA) to adhere to the Guiding Principles of Federal Architecture (Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture | GSA) in the design selection process and to undertake rulemaking to establish this formula for success into statute. This would prohibit any federally mandated design styles from being dictated to communities and would protect the GSA’s Design Excellence Program in law.
Currently, the process for selecting the design style for federal buildings and courthouses is established by the well-respected Design Excellence Program at the GSA (Design Excellence Program | GSA). The Design Excellence Program is based on the Guiding Principles of Federal Architecture as disseminated by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
“To mandate in federal law a preferred or default architectural style would eliminate community-centered decision making, peer review, and architectural skill,” said Kevin Holland, FAIA, NOMAC and member of the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects. “Replacing it with a bureaucratic body that prohibits community feedback and promotes one design over all others is not something the profession of architecture should support.”
AIA remains steadfast in its opposition to any imposition of a particular architectural style preference from the federal government onto other communities. It has been the tradition of the Design Excellence Program to consider the culture, geography, climate, and input of the people living in the communities where the project is built. AIA invites all members to take action by urging Congressional leaders to advance the bipartisan Democracy in Design Act to protect the freedom of architects and all design professionals for the future.
Visit AIA’s website to learn more about its advocacy efforts.

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