Architectural history is not a copybook. Rather, it is a textbook, to be read with a deep understanding of the many principles upon which architecture comes into being. The history of architecture is not served by aping it but by building on it, addressing the programmatic needs of each new building in its own time and place, its neighbors respected, thereby reflecting and honoring the culture it serves.

To use the “styles” of the past as a cloak for the new is a lie, a subterfuge for respectability and supposed prestige. That is the work of authoritarian governments. Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini were its more recent and notorious promoters. They produced not architecture but laughable, if not tragic, parodies of architecture.

All the great works of architecture of the past were, in their own times and places, masterpieces of ancient principles seen anew. That practice has been the glory of the best of American architecture.

Paul Spreiregen, Washington

The writer is an architect.