Democratic By Design is a short film, produced by the General Services Administration and narrated by Luke Russert, that tackles the issue of federal architecture. Buildings designed for the government typically have a familiar aesthetic. Washington, DC, is dominated by Neoclassical Architecture, building on the connotations of ancient Greek and Roman fora and temples as a symbol of democracy. But they perpetuate a sense of dominance and formality. Most of these buildings – city halls, courthouses, agency headquarters – were built in the 18th and 19th century, yet they leave behind a legacy and association in the architecture of the federal government.
On the contrary, government buildings built in the mid to late 20th century, specifically after 1962, have a more varied vernacular. This can be credited to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, aide to President John F. Kennedy. His one page document outlined guidelines for public architecture – an effort to contextualize and modernism government buildings. This video brings his words to life via well-known architects who have have designed federal buildings.
Join us after the break for a look at some of these buildings.