Fallout from the AIA’s Response to Donald Trump’s Election

obama-and-trump-in-oval-office

Just after the 2016 Presidential election was called and Donald Trump became the President-elect, the CEO of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) wrote a letter to congratulate the new administration and secure business contracts for the more than 89,000 members of this organization. Metropolis magazine was one of the first sources to cite the words of the AIA’s CEO:

“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 new115th 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.”

There are several sections that are important to note in this letter. First, Robert Ivy speaks on behalf of the “89,000” members of the AIA, even though very little effort was made to develop a consensus among that membership on how to respond to a very contentious election. This is especially important as less than 30% of the country, which is slightly more than half of all registered voters, elected the new President. In addition, Ivy recognized the importance of certain claims “During the campaign”–the $500 Billion dollars of infrastructural spending–but fails to acknowledge the divisive rhetoric of that same campaign season. This selective citation of the election has generated a lot of pushback from current and previous members of the AIA. This situation has led to the resignation of at least one member of the organization (architect Fritz Read) a litany of leaked letters back and forth between members of the board.

The coup de grace of this situation came in the form of a joint statement–posted as a video  on vimeo–by the President and CEO of the AIA. The video is very important to watch, primarily for the ways it reveals the different attitudes that white elites have toward the election and the pending conflict that is likely to emerge between two types of white citizenship in the U.S.: one that wishes to continue to think in colorblind terms that fail to account for race (and racism), and another that is explicitly open to considering difference, including that of white ethnics who wish to celebrate their cultural heritage. I showed this video (copied below) to my Architectural History class to discuss the ethics of architectural practice, to review the “leadership styles” we can expect in our professional organization, and the ethical struggles professionals are likely to face in the next four years.

A twitter page entitled #NotMyAIA has emerged recently, with stories from members of the organization, architectural educators, and registered architects outside of the AIA. One of the most vocal architectural critics–who has decided not to become a member of the AIA–Michael Sorkin, penned a letter of his own that can be read here. Many other institutions, both academic and professional, have decided to follow suit. These latter voices wish to make Donald Trump accountable for his divisive language BEFORE they endorse any form of official support

The students at the Yale School of Architecture gotten together to pen a collective statement in response to recent events. That can be found here:

I was also forwarded a collective response from the faculty of the California College of the Arts, an award-winning architecture faculty, which was signed by everyone from their Guest Lecturers to their Dean:

  • “As Architecture faculty at CCA, we reject Donald Trump’s racist, sexist, and xenophobic policies as we pledge to respect, defend, and celebrate the rights of all members of our diverse community.

    The California College of the Arts is an art and design college deeply committed to diversity, inclusivity, and international exchange. Our students and faculty encompass individuals of many racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations, and they hail from many nations. We treasure these differences because they enrich the intellectual, creative, and social life of the school, expand our curriculum and our understanding of the world, and enhance the equity and diversity of our professions. We oppose any harassment, discrimination, or targeting of immigrants or other groups that the President-elect and his associates have threatened. We commit to respect and to uphold the rights of all members of our community, whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual identity, or national origin.

    We represent one of the most progressive regions of the United States, with campuses in San Francisco and Oakland–both self-declared sanctuary cities in which municipal governments have pledged to protect undocumented immigrants from prosecution. State legislative leaders have affirmed their commitment to ensuring that California remains “a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations–regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love.”

    As design educators, we teach our students how architecture can fight injustice and promote diversity, equality, cosmopolitanism, and sustainability. Insofar as Trump has proposed policies that go against these principles, we call on architecture and interior design professionals, design educators, and students to speak out–now louder than ever–and to affirm through actions and words our commitment to justice.

    Signed:
    Jason Addy, Senior Lecturer
    Shalini Agrawal, SEED, Adjunct Professor
    T. Jason Anderson, Associate Professor
    Peter Anderson, FAIA, Professor
    Brendan Beazley, PE, SE, RA, Adjunct Professor
    Neeraj Bhatia, Assistant Professor
    Nathan Brown, Adjunct Professor
    Hannah Brown-Lopes, Assoc. AIA, Senior Adjunct Professor
    Amy Campos, Associate Professor
    Irene Cheng, Assistant Professor
    Mark Donohue AIA, Associate Professor
    Susanna Douglas AIA, Adjunct Professor
    Christopher Falliers, Associate Professor
    Thom Faulders, Professor
    Lisa Findley, Professor
    Nataly Gattegno, Associate Professor
    David Gissen, Professor
    Doris Guerrero AIA, Senior Adjunct Professor
    Gregory Hurcomb, Adjunct Professor
    Hugh Hynes, Senior Adjunct Professor
    Margaret Ikeda, Adjunct Professor
    Evan Jones, Adjunct Professor
    J. Hulett Jones, AIA, Adjunct Professor
    Ryan Keerns, RA, NCARB, Adjunct Professor
    Jason Kelly Johnson, Associate Professor
    Janette Kim, Assistant Professor
    Andrew Kudless, Associate Professor
    Katherine Lambert AIA, Professor
    Ines Lejarraga, RA, Adjunct Professor
    Margo Majewska, Senior Adjunct Professor
    Adam Marcus AIA, Associate Professor
    Jonathan Massey, Professor and Dean
    Beth Miles, Senior Professor, Adjunct
    Brian Price, Assistant Professor
    Katherine Rinne, Adjunct Professor
    Christopher A. Roach AIA, Adjunct Professor
    Randolph Ruiz, Senior Adjunct Professor
    Neal Schwartz AIA, Associate Professor
    Craig Scott, AIA, Professor
    Kristen Sidell AIA, Senior Adjunct Professor
    B. Sloan, Senior Adjunct Professor
    Kristen Smith, Adjunct Professor
    Raphael Sperry, ADPSR,, Senior Adjunct Professor
    Antje Steinmuller, Assistant Professor
    Marc Syp, Senior Lecturer
    Cathrine Veikos, Associate Professor
    Sandra Vivanco, RA, SEED, Professor
    Megan Werner , Senior Adjunct Professor”

You can also find responses from the Boston Society of Architects and AIA’s Chicago Chapter here:

I will continue to share more examples with you all as I continue to hear about them on my blog. Please send me an email if you come across something as well so that I can add them there as well.

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About cldavisii

Charles Davis is an Assistant Professor of Architecture History at SUNY Buffalo. He has a PhD in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and a M.Arch from the State University of New York at Buffalo. His specialization is the role of racial discourses in modern architectural style debates, including the ways that organic concepts of form allowed designers to invest buildings with racial and ethnic characters. In addition to maintaining this blog, his academic research and books reviews can be found in journals such as Architecture Research Quarterly (arq), the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Harvard Design Magazine, Append-x and VIA. He is co-editor of Diversity and Design: Understanding Hidden consequences (Routledge: 2015), a volume of fifteen case studies examining the influence of diversity of contemporary design. His dissertation research will be published in an upcoming monograph entitled Building Character: the Racial Politics of Modern Architectural Style (University of Pittsburgh Press).