An Open Letter to Robert Ivy, FAIA

Dear Mr. Ivy,

We were dismayed to read this week that, as members and supporters of the AIA, we had offered our unqualified support for President-Elect Trump and the 115th Congress. We are  ashamed that our professional organization decided that the prospect of public commissions for a very few of us was important enough to silence concerns about the specter of an anti-elitist society defined by racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and the denial of science.

 Image by Ming Thompson, AIA

Image by Ming Thompson, AIA

As members and supporters of the AIA and Equity in Architecture, we have worked hard to demonstrate that our profession, like our society at large, harbors systemic racial and gender biases that have real impacts upon our professional outcomes, and upon our firms’ bottom lines. This work demonstrates that our profession continues to overlook this systemic injustice at our own peril -- we are losing talent by failing to create healthy, equitable, meaningful and culturally diverse work environments for all professionals.

 

 

Please recognize that, in word and in action, you perpetuated our profession’s white, male privilege when you offered the Institute’s support for a person known for promoting a worldview that threatens to pit us against one another on the basis of our race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation. These beliefs do not reflect who we are, nor do we believe that they reflect the core values we are responsible for upholding as a profession. These include: sustainability through dedication to climate action, promotion of domestic and global projects that are humane and socially just, and equity, diversity and inclusion in both practice and representation.

Chancellor Merkel’s statement on the election, which declares that her country and ours share common values of “democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and the dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political position,” is exemplary as a way in which the AIA could have offered qualified support for the new administration on the basis of our values.

Yes, we believe in infrastructure, but that belief is subsidiary to our belief that we have an important role to play in building a just, fair and transparent society. As architects, we are often tasked with working on behalf of many while in consultation with a powerful few. It is our responsibility to reflect and protect the communities that we serve, which often means advocating for those who haven’t been included in the decision-making process. We do not simply provide our clients with what they initially tell us they want to see, but instead work with them to envision a future in which they are their best selves and protect our planet for future generations. This is what architects do. This is the value that we provide, and the basis for our continued relevance.

In offering our profession’s unequivocal support for the incoming administration, we believe that the AIA has fallen short of our duty to the communities that we serve. We have failed to speak truth to power, and have instead offered a willingness to capitulate to an unpardonable worldview because we are enticed by the pursuit of new commissions. We have countermanded years of hard work on our profession’s relevance and on equity within the profession with a statement that suggests that we are simply “yes”-people who rubber stamp the beliefs of those who pay our bills. We owe our society -- and each other -- better than this.

In the very near-term, we would urge the AIA to establish an ongoing -- and public -- forum in which leaders from all levels of practice are invited to reflect upon the Institute's core values, and the value that our profession provides to society. This could be launched at the national plenary broadcast of the Center for Civic Leadership’s Forum on Friday, November 18th. In addition, we believe that the AIA must reaffirm that equity, diversity and inclusion is central to our professional mission. The upcoming Build America Summit on November 29 - 30th, hosted by AIA President Russ Davidson, affords our profession the opportunity to declare that we must renew and rebuild our country's social infrastructure upon the basis of mutual respect, empathy and concern for the health, safety and well-being of all who live in our communities. We would hope that this issue be addressed in the opening session on "Neglect, decline, and consequence," and featured in any policy recommendations that are delivered to the incoming administration. In the long term, we look forward to continuing to work with the AIA to foster and advocate for a profession that exemplifies sustainability, equity, diversity and inclusion by championing the communities that we serve. Equity is for Everyone. 

In solidarity,

Annelise Pitts, Assoc. AIA

Rosa Sheng, AIA

Lilian Asperin, AIA

Saskia Dennis-van Dijl

Julia V. Mandell, AIA

Note: These views solely represent our thoughts alone and do not represent that of any other individuals or groups who support our efforts as we cannot speak for them.