by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
There is no greater public expression of ideology, culture, or society than the architecture that we live with and see daily. President Trump acknowledged this with his executive order to “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” Britain also notes its importance with the inception of the “Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.”
Surprisingly, such attempts to restore and revive classical architecture have spawned a culture war in the field of architecture. Within 100 days of taking office, Joe Biden has already rescinded President Trump’s executive order, striking a victory for modernist and brutalist architectural designs.
This battle, in which classicists argue for more Western-classical buildings instead of contemporary styles, is unique amongst other cultural struggles. Why? Because, at least in this case, “conservatives” are on the offensive.
In the field of architecture, traditionalists are the revolutionaries fighting against the entrenched beliefs and notions of modern architecture. Yet the classical traditionalists also, according to recent polls, can boast vast popular support. …
… Since 2010, Hungary’s government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has launched a program to restore much of Budapest’s classical architecture. For the past decade, a flurry of construction, reconstruction, and refurbishment have transformed Hungary’s capital on a scale unseen in most western cities. This ambitious crusade, as well as the story of Budapest and Hungary itself, serves as a lesson on the importance of architecture. …
… Restoring and maintaining traditional architecture affirms the uniqueness and character of the city, town, or landscape that it occupies. Unlike modern architecture, which usually lacks character, classical architecture proudly asserts the identity and pride of the people it represents.
Classical architecture is unapologetically Western in design, which pays direct homage to the Roman and Greek origins of our culture. This is especially the case in Hungary; rebuilding Budapest is akin to reasserting its Hungarian identity that was repressed by 40 years of communist rule