Did you know there's a right-wing political movement in architecture? We didn't either until we came across an April 4 CNSNews.com article by Barbara Hollingsworth.
The article stars Justin Shubow of something called the National Civic Art Society ranting over the idea that a government office building in Washington, D.C., is being considered for the National Register of Historic Places because it's among the first such modernist-style buildings in the city. Shubow declares that he "would like to see the building torn down and replaced" because it's "unpleasant and unliked," like apparently all modern architecture is:
Shubow pointed out that a National Register listing “makes it more difficult to make alterations to it and also affects development in the neighborhood.
“So one of the results could be the encouragement of building other Modernist buildings around it, as opposed to beautiful, inspiring classical buildings - the sorts of buildings we all associate with Washington, D.C.,” he said.
That seems like a lot of energy and hate to waste over a government building, which suggests there's something deeper happening.
Indeed, there is. The National Civic Art Society is apparently some sort of right-wing group; two of its leaders are officials with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (a rather plain rendition of the Goddess of Democracy created by the Tiananmen Square protesters), and only about half have any sort of stated art or architecture background. (Shubow himself is a lawyer by training.) Its advisers include representatives of right-wing think tanks such as the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
The society's main job right now is hating the proposed Eisenhower Memorial for being designed by modernist architect Frank Gehry and not being being part of the "classical tradition" in Washington. Shubow demands that the design competition for the memorial be reopened and that it be dominated by "a classical design, one that comports with the best of our memorial tradition."
The society's "about us" page includees even more ranting against modern architecture. Just as right-wing jurists think the only good Constitution is a dead one, the society believes the only good architectural style is the dead, rigid form that was good enough for Rome, Athens and the Founders:
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson consciously chose the classical style to physically embody the new nation's form of government and political aspirations--architecture they intended to be a model for the entire country. The Founders understood that the classical tradition, harkening back to democratic Athens and republican Rome, is time-honored and timeless. It is unparalleled in its dignity, beauty, and harmony, not to mention its legibility to the common man.
Needless to say, Hollingsworth made no effort whatsoever to seek out the view of any other architect to counter Shubow's anti-modernist rantings, making this yet another unbalanced work from the decidedly unbalanced reporter.