Donald Trump has been wrong about nearly everything when it comes to the FBI—wrong about its political nature, wrong about its corruption, wrong about its leadership—but it turns out that he gets at least two things right about the bureau: Axios reported Sunday that the president thinks its headquarters, the aging J. Edgar Hoover Building, across Pennsylvania Avenue from Trump’s own hotel, is “terrible.”
“Honestly, I think it’s one of the ugliest buildings in the city,” Trump has evidently told at least one source.
He’s certainly correct about that. The unwelcoming and obsolete Brutalist monstrosity of the Hoover Building has no place in a society that prizes transparency and accountability from its law enforcement. The building is literally falling apart.
The government has spent millions to erect nets around it to catch falling concrete, and one part of its underground parking garage has been closed after falling pieces damaged cars.
But what’s even more surprising is Trump’s second conclusion: The FBI, which has spent a decade trying to trade its downtown real estate for a leafy suburban campus, should stay put in the heart of the capital.
“This is prime real estate, right on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump evidently has said. “This is a great address. They need to stay there. But it needs a total revamp.”
He’s right about that too.
It’s critical to our democracy that our nation’s premier law enforcement agency—as beleaguered as it is under the president himself—stay in downtown Washington, D.C.
The nation’s capital has long struggled to figure out how to address its second-most prevalent architectural era. The Brutalist period littered the city with unfortunate, unfriendly examples; many Cabinet headquarters—including the Departments of Energy, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development—date to the movement, their large buildings celebrating a design style characterized by aggressive boringness: blocky beige concrete typically interrupted only by small windows. Vast concrete plazas greet all too many morning government commuters, their harshness and emptiness hardly welcoming and inspiring the workforce inside.