Student Responses to the AIA’s Support of Donald Trump’s election

I recently wrote a blog entry reviewing the  controversy that  emerged in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) that resulted from a prematurely written letter from the CEO Robert Ivy, which seemed to pursue the possibility of new work while tacitly condoning the divisive rhetoric of the election campaign. In an attempt to get my architecture students to think about the ethical implications of this situation, I asked them to develop an open letter of response to Robert Ivy as members of an Advisory Board to the North Carolina Chapter of the AIA, which has yet to pen an official response to this situation. Given the AIA’s official commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion among its ranks–which can be found in its Code of Ethics–and in the architectural projects it celebrates, I was hoping to use this situation as a “teachable moment” to generate a conversation that has been sorely lacking at my home institution.

I have added all of the letters that my students generated for this assignment below, without editing any of their content or softening any of their words. (I have provided some grammatical support, but nothing that would change the content.) The only things I asked them to do was to sign their letters of declaration (to avoid the inflammatory rhetoric of internet trolls who remain anonymous) and to develop a statement that everyone in the group could agree upon. In my mind, this is a snapshot of our future leadership and the sensibilities they bring to issues of diversity and inclusion within the profession. I hope it makes for interesting reading and generates good conversations.

For the sake of clarity, here is the original statements from the Robert Ivy:

“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.”

The American Institute of Architects‘ (AIA) Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA

 


Letter to NCAIA – Class Workshop

To Whom It May Concern,

The North Carolina AIA [Advisory] Board understands that the statement made by Robert Ivy does not represent the AIA body as a whole.

Robert Ivy addressed the importance for architects to be involved in the necessary infrastructural renovations proposed by President-elect Trump. However, he did not reinforce the importance of criticality in design. Architects need to participate in this conversation so that they can represent all groups of people and help to guide this [organization] toward more successful[ly] built environments.

Sincerely,

Corbett Walker
Ethan Ward
Evan Phillips
Chris Cassavecchia
Van Faison

ncaia-letter


Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

Dear Robert Ivy,

[As members of AIA North Carolina’s Advisory Board, we feel that] you were not justified in speaking on behalf of the AIA [membership] as a whole without first consulting the rest of the AIA’s leadership, because they all have different opinions as is the nature of the [profession]. That [being] said, [your] message would have applied similarly if Hillary Clinton had won the election, because it is about leaderships working together to [bring] the United States into the future, rather than keeping the nation divided. Working with Donald Trump on public infrastructure [should] only be beneficial [if it works] towards progress. If Donald Trump ends up implementing projects that violate the AIA’s code of ethics, then it is the AIA’s duty to fight [against] these projects. However, it is by working together that the AIA has the power to influence Trump to create projects that benefit the United States, and avoid racial segregation and environmental destruction. Essentially, keep working so long as its within the code of ethics.

Sincerely,

Mike Kekedy
Yijing An

Taner Coskun


Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

Dear Robert Ivy,

We, the members of AIA North Carolina’s [Advisory Board], express deep concern with what we feel is an overly conciliatory tone [of your recent] letter to [President-elect Donald Trump]. That letter is not representative of the 89,000 voices in the AIA. While we will strive to support the new president, our support will not be unconditional.

In addition to promises of $500 billion in infrastructure improvements, the campaign also promised the dismantling of green initiatives, mass deportations, and generally conveyed messages that stand in stark contrast to the values of the AIA.

As [future] members we stand as advocates for stronger communities addressing the economic disadvantages in our built environment, and protecting our environment for generations to come. It is toward these ends we will support the President-elect; however, we will not deviate from the clearly states values agreed upon by the 89,000 members of the AIA.

Respectfully,

Jason Craft
Meritt Foreman
Shane Zimmerman

Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

Dear Robert Ivy,

Being [current] international students [in the United States], it is an ambiguous situation to [have to] comment [on] a [fellow] country’s election that [has] created world news. There is deep concern developed regarding one’s future when you [are in a non-native land] and you strive to get accustomed to that diversity. In such a scenario, any disrupt[ion] that occurs can put us in a perplexed situation. It creates an air of anxiousness and curiosity when you do not know how such a decision will influence students like us.

At this point, any statement from a huge organisation like AIA should be supportive and concerned about its current and future members. It is a leader’s responsibility to deliver a proper statement when he is representing an organisation, ensuring most of his members are consulted and everyone’s opinion is taken into consideration. Any statement from a leader of the organisation when representing it cannot be a personal opinion.

As [the current CEO] of AIA, it is primarily important to think of the repercussions before makingsuch a strong statement. In first place, was delivering any statement so important? If one asks himself this question, he would never comment anything so influential.

Being a representative of 89,000 members, prioritizing the comfort of its members and listeners is very necessary while making a statement influencing a whole community of the same profession. It is professional etiquette to consider diverse opinions and deliver a diplomatic statement. Also, its important to work together to address any difference and still stay together as a team and represent the society as one nation.

Sincerely,
Hasitha Valmeti
Disha Shirgurkar
Shikha Patel

Vikram Madhusudhan


Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

To: The Current Leadership of AIA North Carolina

Subject: Aftermath of Robert Ivy’s statement

Dear President of AIA North Carolina,

In light of the recent election and its contentious outcome, we believe that it was too soon tomake a statement on behalf of the AIA by Robert Ivy. We recognize that Ivy’s letter was not offensive by any means, but instead, he assumed his voice represented opinions of everyone in the profession and the organization, which brought on most criticisms. As an organization, it is imperative that we clearly define our values; Ivy should have been more careful in his choice of words that in moving forward, we are adhering to our beliefs and values and not simply accepting whatever the upcoming administration puts forward.

So, we urge people to rest their insecurities about the results until we begin to see definite changes and not base our assumptions solely on the campaign. Instead, we should focus on moving forward without losing our agenda as architects.

Yours sincerely,

Diana Khalifeh
Brianna Moretti
Linda Pape
Sara Shamloo
Ibha Shrestha

Swathi Sreedharan


Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

Dear President of AIA North Carolina,

We believe that Robert Ivy acted as a lobbyist and was simply doing his job. In his letter he was congratulating the President Elect and the new congress members. Here he stated that they look forward to working with them. This is important because he does not say working “for them.” As architects we may work with clients we do not agree with. It is our job to be an influence to them with the standards the AIA upholds. Avoiding them or resigning from the AIA is not the correct choice because then you are cutting off all communication with them. You will have no way to influence them. We also agree that the president of the AIA is proposing talks and discussions in the upcoming weeks.

Signed,

Jamar Moore
Kelsey Hollington
Christopher Pope
Jordan Garza

 


Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

To: The Current Leadership of AIA North Carolina

Subject: Aftermath of Robert Ivy’s statement

Dear President of AIA North Carolina,

As [members of] North Carolina’s AIA [Advisory Board], we take issue in the statement that the national CEO Robert Ivy made in regards to the AIA’s stance on the president elect. While we feel that talking about this issue is important, discussion between regional AIA chapters should have taken place before coming to consensus.

We acknowledge that architecture plays a subservient role to politics, however, at the same time we need to be critical of architecture’s historical role in discriminatory practices, and vigilant against repeating history. Therefore lets #MakeAIAgreatagain

From your North Carolina Adisory Board,

Alaa Bou Ghanem
Eric Mura
Sara Bonesteel
Ronald Oziogu
Adam Vosburgh

Santiago Mesa


Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

To: The Current Leadership of AIA North Carolina

Subject: Aftermath of Robert Ivy’s statement

Dear President of AIA North Carolina,

[As members of your Advisory Board, we suggest that] the North Carolina AIA recognize President-elect Donald J. Trump and believes an unwillingness to work with him and his administration would prove detrimental to the future of our states infrastructure. While we do not collectively agree with Trumps politics, we must remain objective for the betterment of our states’ communities. If we can continue to uphold our values while working with the 115th Congress and President-elect Donald Trump, then we see no reason to refuse to work with [this] new administration.

[From your North Carolina Adisory Board,]

Jeff Deming
Wes Fitzgerald
Nick Schafer

Mark Royster


Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

To: The Current Leadership of AIA North Carolina

Subject: Aftermath of Robert Ivy’s statement

Dear President of AIA North Carolina,

In response to Robert Ivy’s statement, the North Carolina AIA [Advisory] Board believes that Robert Ivy’s view were not meant to divide the two political parties but to continue moving forward in bettering the Infrastructure of the United States. In Ivy’s statement he does not say that he supports Trumps Values, but is simply stating that we will work with him to continue moving forward.

Your Truly,

Aubrey Killian
Drue Stroud
Christopher Galicki

Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

To: The Current Leadership of AIA North Carolina

Subject: Aftermath of Robert Ivy’s statement

Dear President of AIA North Carolina,

In response to Robert Ivy’s letter, the [Advisory Board of] North Carolina’s Chapter of the AIA is against Ivy’s blatant complacency and misrepresentation of the individuals and the whole of the AIA. We believe that we should uphold our values as the AIA and not compromise our foundational virtues for a better relationship with our new government. We should attempt to work together, but not at the cost of our principles of diversity and inclusion. While cannot stonewall the new government as Sorkin demands–it will only stifle our chance at constructing a positive, non-discriminatory built environment–we believe that this is indeed a time to come together, but not in the face of our values.

Sincerely,

Jessica Hoke
Norman Angel

Alex Montgomery


Letter to NCAIA – In-Class Workshop

To: The Current Leadership of AIA North Carolina

Subject: Aftermath of Robert Ivy’s statement

Dear President of AIA North Carolina,

We, the [members of] North Carolina AIA’s [Advisory Board] do not believe the statement by Robert Ivy does not reflect the beliefs of the consecutive members of the AIA.

[In our campus life], AIAS is an inclusive group that has some diversity and according to his letter we all have one mind and one opinion, which is not the case.

Mr. Ivy’s letter talks about the benefits of Trumps infrastructure plans but does not comment on the potential issues Trump has stated regarding the wellness of the people of the United States.

As [an advisory to] the North Carolina AIA we want to keep the voice of the people alive and include each and every one of our members in a decision that affects all of us, not just predominantly governing persons that are our voice.

Trumps lack of respect to architects in the past is unacceptable and we do not believe he will completely have our backs like Robert Ivy believes he will.

Signed:

Isaac Aguilar
Ronald Washington
Melaine Ireland
Kaysey Raper
Heber Diez

Cecil Norris


Letter to NCAIA – In-class Workshop

To: The Current Leadership of AIA North Carolina

Subject: Aftermath of Robert Ivy’s statement

Dear President of AIA North Carolina,

The AIA as an organization is committed to working with the President Elect to address some of the issues facing our country. That includes strengthening the nations infrastructure with the 4,500 billion the President Elect had promised during the campaign trail for infrastructure spending over the next five years. We plan to work with him so long that it ensures investments in public projects like schools, hospitals, and other public infrastructure projects continue to be a major priority.

Regardless of the rhetoric said and expressed during the President Elect’s campaign, we will strive to continue our values of inclusiveness and equality in this organization and in our practice. We will also continue our goal to create more sustainable building practices as well as a sustainable built environment.

We look forward to working with the new administration and continuing our own values as an organization.

Sincerely,

Tanner Glackin
Elena Belova
Bethnay Kuhnau

 


Letter to NCAIA – In-class Workshop

To AIA-NC,

We acknowledge that Ivy has a willingness to bring together the AIA on common ground, but there is a disconnect that has occurred when translating a common message. The election has caused a huge social divide among Americans, and Ivy’s disregard to such divide is offensive and insensitive to others who oppose Trump’s public positions. There is no way to fully represent all members of AIA because all have different views. What can be done is an attempt to work together to provide a comfortable environment to host a forum to confront the issues that plague the AIA. To move forward TOGETHER we must not avoid the issues, but confront them to progress as a discipline and society.

Sincerely,

Akielah Wiggins
Tarah Weston
Whitni Irving

 

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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).