Designs for Politics in Intellectual History

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While working on a report on federal office space in 1962, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a young assistant secretary at the Department of Labor, began writing what would become the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture and shaped the direction of the federal government's architecture for decades. The principles outlined two requirements for a federal building: First, it must provide efficient and economical facilities for the use of Government agencies. Second, it must provide visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American Government. Achieving those requirements demanded a willingness to follow architects' ideas, an avoidance of an official style, and-if needed-paying some additional cost to avoid excessive uniformity in design of Federal buildings. Citing Pericles, Moynihan argued that this pursuit would provide clear visual evidence the American government do[es] not imitate-for we are a model to others. Over the years these principles and the subsequent Design Excellence program under the General Services Administration commissioned designs by an eclectic range of architects for federal building projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)958-970
Number of pages13
JournalModern Intellectual History
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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