At tonight’s lecture at D-Crit, Casey Jones, director of design excellence and the arts for the U.S. General Services Administration, quoted from Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, written in 1962. They are worth reading in full (scroll down to the bottom of the link), but inspiring in pieces as well.Major emphasis should be placed on the choice of designs that embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought. Specific attention should be paid to the possibilities of incorporating into such designs qualities which reflect the regional architectural traditions of that part of the Nation in which buildings are located. Where appropriate, fine art should be incorporated in the designs, with emphasis on the work of living American artists. The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government, and not vice versa. The Government should be willing to pay some additional cost to avoid excessive uniformity in design of Federal buildings.
Moynihan’s thoughts are prescient, but also contemporary. At this same moment Eliot Noyes was creating IBM’s design guidelines. His first principle was a lack of uniformity: hire the best, and IBM itself will come to stand for good design. People in government, including Lady Bird Johnson, noticed.
Jones also mentioned that he and a design working group were trying to create consistent design standards across the federal government for architecture, products and graphics. Wouldn’t that be great? I can’t supress the observation that the GSA website might be a good place to start.