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As AIA pledges to work with Donald Trump, membership recoils


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How quickly some give in. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) released a memo recently stating that, as architects, they were eager and willing to work with Trump to address the country’s aging infrastructure problems, urging the architecture community to band together and work with Trump and the Republican-controlled 115th Congress. The memo has pissed off its fare share of architects, and The Architect’s Newspaper has called them out for AIA’s complicity. Read The Architect Newspaper’s response, written by their editorial board, in partial below, or in full here.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is drawing ire from across the architectural profession after releasing a post-election memo containing conciliatory and supportive language for President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to embark on a $500 billion infrastructure building program.

Following Tuesday’s election results, Robert Ivy, AIA executive vice president and chief executive officer, released the following statement on behalf of the national AIA apparatus and membership:

The AIA and its 89,000 members are committed to working with President-elect Trump to address the issues our country faces, particularly strengthening the nation’s aging infrastructure. During the campaign, President-elect Trump called for committing at least $500 billion to infrastructure spending over five years. We stand ready to work with him and with the incoming 115th Congress to ensure that investments in schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure continue to be a major priority.

We also congratulate members of the new 115th Congress on their election. We urge both the incoming Trump Administration and the new Congress to work toward enhancing the design and construction sector’s role as a major catalyst for job creation throughout the American economy.

This has been a hard-fought, contentious election process. It is now time for all of us to work together to advance policies that help our country move forward.

While the editorial board agrees that a spirit of togetherness is vital for moving the country (and the architectural profession) forward, The Architect’s Newspaper strongly disagrees with Ivy’s conciliatory note. Our editorial board is currently gathering feedback from practitioners, luminaries, and academics in the field, and initial responses indicate that many architects strongly disagree with the tone, character, and appropriateness of Ivy’s memorandum.

It is plain to see that Donald Trump ran a racist, misogynist, and hateful campaign rooted in the forceful removal of undocumented immigrants, voter suppression targeting people of color, and xenophobic anti-Muslim profiling. The many hate crimes and acts of intimidation taking place across the country in the days since the election are a testament to the violence and racism his campaign has enlivened.

Though Trump’s campaign was relatively anemic in terms of specific, actionable policy proposals and objectives, a clear plank of the Republican candidate’s message was, Ivy correctly states, related to infrastructure, namely, the erection of a border wall separating Mexico from the United States. Very little mention was ever made by Trump, his surrogates, or his supporters for the “investments in schools, hospitals, and other public infrastructure” that Ivy cites. That line of reasoning is purely hallucinogenic and wishful thinking on the part of the AIA CEO, and an irresponsible act of complicity from someone tasked to lead a diverse, inclusive, and progressive professional organization.

It is anathema to this editorial board to fathom the positive impact of such a work of infrastructure as the proposed border wall or its attendant detention centers, federal and private prisons, and militarized infrastructure that would be necessary in order to achieve the President-elect’s stated deportation policy goals. To ignore the role design and designers could play in instituting and perpetuating the inequality inherent in the racist patriarchy of Trump’s ideology embodies is irresponsible and reprehensible.

Furthermore, the memo’s imprecise language, uncritical stance, and congratulatory tone not only willfully misunderstand the stated policy objectives of the President-elect, but in committing such a lapse in judgement, submit the 89,000-member profession to the willful service of the destructive goals stated above. All the while, it condones the violence and oppression due to be inflicted upon the communities singled out by Trump’s rhetoric—which will likely impact the AIA’s own membership as well.

The AIA’s struggles with diversity and inclusion are well-known: While the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) reported 105,847 registered architects in 2015, the Directory of African American Architects counts only 2,084 self-reported African-American members. That being said, recent years have indeed seen an increase in diversity within the profession. Demographic reports from 2015 show the highest proportion of women and people of color completing licensure requirements ever, with nearly 40 percent of newly-registered architects belonging to these groups.

Simply put, Ivy’s memo does not speak for these professionals.

*American Institute of Architects issues post-election memo saying AIA will “stand ready to work” with Donald Trump. Many members disagree. (Courtesy Jacob Creswick)