Many readers know that I serve on the board of directors of a small but feisty nonprofit in Washington, D.C. called the National Civic Art Society. NCAS campaigns for good taste in federally commissioned architecture. The U.S. government is the country’s largest buyer of architectural services, and the choices it makes tend to enrich already-rich modernist starchitects whose buildings are meant to baffle rather than to ennoble us. Sad!
In pursuit of this objective, the National Civic Art Society and C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State cordially invite you to attend an event on “The Architecture of Bureaucracy” in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday October 17.
Catesby Leigh, the National Civic Art Society’s 2018-2019 Research Fellow, will deliver the keynote address. He will discuss the intellectual and aesthetic inspiration for bureaucratic buildings of the New Deal and later eras, and their stark contrast with the classical principles that influenced the architects of our Capitol, White House, and our republic’s other early buildings.
When Uncle Sam elects to construct a courthouse, office building or embassy, creating value should be a cardinal objective. Not value for a real-estate investment cycle, not value for an architectural fashion cycle, but long-term cultural value enshrining the dignity of republican government by, of, and for the people. The key to the creation of such value lies, as it always has, in the Vitruvian architectural principles of structural stability, suitability to purpose and, last but not least, beauty. Since World War II the Federal government has strayed from those principles. This should be an event worthy of your time.