Founded in 2002, 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. As Winston Churchill said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter our buildings shape us."
The National Civic Art Society has come to national attention for leading the historic fight to stop Frank Gehry's ugly, grandiose design for the $150-million National Eisenhower Memorial. The Washington Post reported that the National Civic Art Society's advocacy "has received a remarkable amount of attention, offering talking points for ... columnists and critics." In the words of RealClearPolitics, we have "become go-to sources for criticisms about the memorial in papers like The Washington Post, New York Times, and The Daily Beast." A House Natural Resources Committee oversight investigation of the memorial extensively relied upon our research, and members of Congress quoted our criticisms of the design.
According to Allan Greenberg, architect of the diplomatic reception rooms at the U.S. Department of State, "When the National Civic Art Society began its Eisenhower Memorial fight, it was like Hans Brinker plugging a dyke all by himself with one finger. Now the National Civic Art Society is well on its way to becoming a Washington powerhouse."
George Weigel, distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said about us, "The National Civic Art Society is doing essential work in restoring republican dignity and democratic purpose to public architecture and design in America."
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson consciously chose the classical style to physically embody the new nation's form of government and political aspirations--architecture they intended to be a model for the entire country. The Founders understood that the classical tradition, harkening back to democratic Athens and republican Rome, is time-honored and timeless. It is unparalleled in its dignity, beauty, and harmony, not to mention its legibility to the common man.
The National Civic Art Society advocates for beautiful, meaningful civic design that continues and expands upon the Founders' vision, but we also concern ourselves with architecture more generally. We believe that contemporary architecture is by and large a failure. The public finds it ugly, strange, and off-putting. It has created a built environment that is degraded and dehumanizing. The reason for this failure is the ideology of architectural Modernism, which came to dominance after the Second World War. The National Civic Art Society endeavors to help architecture return to its pre-Modernist roots, particularly the forms, principles, and standards of the unparalleled classical tradition, and the humanistic architectural idioms that are derived from it.
We achieve our mission by:
on current and futurebuilding projects
via lectures, symposia, debates, exhibitions, and walking tours
competitions, calls for plans and counter-proposals
expert guidance for appointments, commissions, patrons, and projects
newsletters, articles, white papers, and online and social media
- Hosted a dialogue discussion on "Dramatic Cultural Change and the Future of Architecture" with Michael G. Imber and Duo Dickinson.
- Hosted a lecture by historian Calder Loth on "Reconstructing Lost Architecture: A Commendable Tradition."
- Hosted a panel on "New Urbanism and the Human Habitat: Beauty in the Natural and Built Environment" at the Philips Collection in Washington, D.C.
- Organized an Eisenhower Memorial Counter-Competition with an award ceremony at the Rayburn House Office Building at which Susan Eisenhower, the president's granddaughter, delivered remarks.
- Launched "Our Classical Heritage" series of walking tours of the nation's capital.
- Published The Gehry Towers over Eisenhower: The National Civic Art Society Report on the Eisenhower Memorial, a 150-page critique of the Memorial's competition, design, and agency approval.
- Testified to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Public Lands on "The Future of the National Mall."
- Twice testified to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Public Lands on the Eisenhower Memorial.
- Testified numerous times to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and National Capital Planning Commission on the Eisenhower Memorial.
- Sponsored a panel discusion on "Monumental Fights: The Role of Memorials in Civic Life."
- Hosted a lecture series on "Art in the Republic."