Hope for a ‘New’ New Deal?


[Image: Elmer Brown’s murals for Valley View portrayed a heroic image of Cleveland’s industrial history in classic WPA style, via]

In about 32 days Obama goes into office – and he’s promised ‘change’. Well, I think we all realize that ‘change’ would mean doing something about this clusterf@ck of an economy – but what could this mean for architects? The President Elect has promised new public projects, to both create jobs and rebuild our infrastructure – and he’s said he wanted to be an architect when he was younger. So, will this translate into a new era of great American architecture – schools, government buildings, public spaces, libraries, courthouses, embassies, etc? This nation’s image is in great need of a facelift – maybe architecture can benefit from the political botox.

In his radio announcement, Obama mentioned roads and bridges, sewer systems, schools, mass transit, electrical grids, dams and other public utilities, windmills and solar panels, and expanded access to the Internet.

Nothing in there specifically about architecture.

The program is clearly modeled on FDR’s New Deal recovery programs of the 1930s, of which the best known was the Works Progress Administration. The WPA, too, was an effort to jump-start a morbid economy. But it created much more than infrastructure. It sponsored superb public architecture – post offices, courthouses, airports, dams, office buildings for government agencies – fine works that we’re still proud to live with. The term “WPA style” is used by historians to denote a whole trend in architecture.

Architecture is what’s missing in Obama’s proposal. But maybe there’s hope.

Let’s ask the Obama government to create a great heritage of civic architecture in this country.

If that sounds crazy, you’re forgetting the days when government did just that. It wasn’t only the WPA. Most eras of American history have seen the creation of great public architecture. We’re currently the exception, not the rule.

.:Robert Campbell->via The Boston Globe

Also, speaking of global image and embassies – check out the November issue of Monocle for an interesting article on embassies in a post 9-11 world [and how ours suck].

Posted: December 18th, 2008
at 1:44am by orangemenace

Categories: architecture,news

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