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72% Want Traditional, Classical Styles for U.S. Courthouses, Government Offices; Far Less Preference for Modern, Brutalist Architecture

Press Release updated: Oct 14, 2020 08:00 EDT

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72%) – including majorities across political, racial/ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic lines – prefer traditional architecture for U.S. courthouses and federal office buildings, according to a new poll of over 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the National Civic Art Society (NCAS).

These findings come after controversy engulfed a draft version of a Trump administration Executive Order that would re-orient federal architecture in a traditional direction, including by requiring that new office buildings in Washington, D.C., be classical in design. Despite proposed legislation – entitled the “Democracy in Design Act” – in the House of Representatives to overturn this anticipated Executive Order, this poll shows that large bipartisan majorities support the order’s intent.

According to the poll’s results:

  • An overwhelming majority of Americans – more than 7 in 10 (72%) – prefer traditional architecture for U.S. courthouses and federal office buildings.
  • Democrats (70%), Republicans (73%), and Independents (73%) all agree on their preference for traditional architecture.
  • Preference for traditional architecture unites majorities of Baby Boomers (age 65+) and Gen-Z (age 18-34). Traditional styles are the choice of 77% of those aged 65 or older, and 68% of those aged 18-34.
  • Majorities of black (62%), Hispanic (65%), and white (75%) Americans prefer traditional architecture.
  • The typical markers of “elite” status – higher earning and education levels – do not diminish a preference for traditional architecture. It is the clear choice of Americans making a household income under $50,000 (73%) and those making a household income over $100,000 (70%); those with a high school degree or less (72%) and those with a bachelor’s degree or greater (72%).

“At a time when Americans are deeply divided across so many areas, it’s heartening to see that the vast majority of us can at least agree on federal architecture,” says NCAS President Justin Shubow. “Americans have long cherished classical and traditional architecture for their federal buildings both for their beauty and because they are widely accepted symbols of our democracy. Such dignified buildings connect us to our heritage and are associated with continuity, equality, openness, and precedent. They are courthouses that look like courthouses, and public buildings that look public. The design of federal buildings should reflect the aesthetic and symbolic preferences of the people they are built to serve. Nonetheless, for over 60 years, architectural elites, Modernist mandarins, and a coterie of critics have foisted their antithetical preferences on federal design.”

The National Civic Art Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., that educates and empowers civic leaders in the promotion of public art and architecture worthy of our great Republic.

For more information or to set up an interview with Justin Shubow, please contact Megan Stencel at or (704) 249-1430.

Source: National Civic Art Society