There are many who disagree with the executive order to mandate that new federal buildings follow classical styles of architecture. There are also those of us who have objected to some modern designs like the eyesore design in London of our new embassy. It is a view shared by Prince Charles who lamented how modern designs were ruining the classic profile of key London areas. However, Yale History Professor Glenda Gilmore and columnist Mark Lamster see a far more sinister and frightening meaning in President Donald Trump’s executive order: the blue print for fascism. It appears that we are just one Corinthian column way from an authoritarian structure.
In a column in Dallas Morning News, Mark Lamster warned readers that this is all the stuff of Hitler and Stalin:
“Not mentioned is the fact that classical and traditional styles have also been associated with fascist and totalitarian regimes; Hitler, most notoriously, repudiated modernism and mandated classicism as the state style of the Third Reich. Berlin was to be remade as a city of monumental classicism — the centerpiece being an enormous dome modeled on the Roman Pantheon, its design carried out by architect Albert Speer. The Soviet Union also prescribed classical building as expressions of state authority.”
That apparently was too subtle for Professor Gilmore. Gilmore teaches African American history as well as women’s and gender history at Yale. She tweeted: “This may not seem like the most dangerous thing we face, but it’s one of the warning signs of fascism and…wait for it…genocide. The cult of antiquity & the imposition of monuments to a nation’s mythical glorious past precede both of those disasters.”
The controversy struck a cord with me because I have been writing on the connection between architectural and Madisonian theories of space and design. See Jonathan Turley, Madisonian Tectonics: How Function Follows Form in Constitutional and Architectural Interpretation, 83 George Washington University Law Review 305 (2015). Mies van der Rohe spoke of form follows function, not fascism follows form.
One can certainly denounce the executive order as artificially limiting artistic and architectural expression. Buildings reflect the people and age in which they are built. However, it is lunacy to suggest that classic architecture somehow belongs to or perpetuates fascist ideologies, let alone genocide. Only in the most feverish mind would anyone view this executive order of marching us toward fascism one Doric column at a time.