Opposition to Proposed Federal Order on Architecture

As stewards Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation, Design Core developed a ten year Action Plan shaped with the input of more than 1,000 partners and Detroit residents. To bring this designation to life, Design Core and more than 50 partners across the city are focusing three strategic areas, one of which includes promoting policies that embrace inclusive design to inform how the city looks and works. The recently proposed federal order that all federal architecture be designed in a neoclassical style stands in contrast to Design Core’s strategic vision outlined in the Detroit City of Design Action Plan.

As an African-American female designer, I am painfully aware that certain Eurocentric building styles often stand as reminders of oppression to people of color. As a person who values diverse experiences and collaboration, I believe we must advocate for the ability of all people to participate in shaping the nation’s landscape. The true beauty and sustainability of a place lies in embracing the full spectrum of its human diversity and intellect. This approach can only be accomplished by adapting a site specific, one-fits-one process to shaping our complex and ever growing cities.   

Whether it be a structure made out of bamboo, concrete or steel, it is the accumulation of a city’s “visual voice” that tells a nonverbal narrative of its past, present and future. Design should reflect the voices of the community that it serves. Restricting the built environment into one style silences the voices of our nation’s diverse people and limits the creativity and innovation of designers in our country. It signals that our country is moving backwards instead of looking courageously toward the future.

Design Core is an organization that advocates for a range of design-driven businesses, from emerging studios to established companies. The idea that all Federal architecture would be restricted to one style is troubling because of its professional exclusivity and economic limitations. Design Core is committed to protecting the freedom of thought and creative expression that is essential to the success of any democracy. Please join us in championing inclusive design for all. 

To see additional viewpoints, read more from AIA and NOMA.

Kiana Wenzell
Director of Culture & Community
Design Core Detroit