Civic Architecture in the Image of the Community

Back in February this year, the American architectural community was scandalised by a draft executive order from the White House threatening to make neoclassical or traditional regional styles compulsory for all new federal buildings. The initiative fails to recognise the specificity of the architectural expression and the innovation that stems from understanding the local context. Metropolis Magazine has gathered together several examples of civic architecture that succeed in expressing the needs and aspirations of their communities, thus building a compelling argument against a mandated, unified architectural expression.

The Metro Transit Police Department by Snow Kreilich Architects. Image © Corey Gaffer

The projects exemplified speak of a progressive architecture, one that represents its community and expresses society’s current ideals: justice, government transparency, sustainability and cultural sensitivity. One such project is the Metro Transit Police Department in Minneapolis, where Snow Kreilich Architects designed the station to encourage openness and trust in police-community relations. Completed in 2019, the project abandons the image of the imposing building, in favour of a glazed main façade, an inviting main entrance for both police force and the public and an overall welcoming design in line with the community-led policing program. On the same topic of community and institution interaction, inside the East County Office & Archives in Santee, California, the architecture firm Miller Hull Partnership recreated a “public street” lined with all the public services of the institution. The clarity and transparency of the design are meant to symbolise an equally accessible government.

courthouse landscape design. Image Courtesy of wHY Architecture

An expression of a proper understanding of the local context and natural environment is the landscape design created by wHY Architecture for the courthouse in Culver City, California. The project uses native-species of plants resistant to the local drought conditions. On the same lines, the Santa Monica City Services Building by Frederick Fisher and Partners is an answer to the local demand for sustainable architecture, as the design qualifies as a net-zero-energy building.

Santa Monica’s City Services Building. Image Courtesy of Frederick Fisher and Partners

Community representation is what many cities demand from civic architecture projects. The examples serve to showcase how public architecture is rooted in pragmatic imperatives and needs to satisfy the community’s expectations and needs. To learn more about these projects, read the full article titled Already Great: Successful Civic Architecture Begins at the Municipal Level on Metropolis Magazine.

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Cite: Andreea Cutieru. "Civic Architecture in the Image of the Community" 24 May 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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