Seth Wenig/AP

The American Institute of Architects’ CEO apologized for issuing a congratulatory message to Donald Trump. But AIA member Bryan C. Lee Jr. wants more than that: He’s issueda call to action around designing for justice.”

Many of the American Institute of Architects’ general members were already taken aback by the tone of a letter from the organization’s CEO, Robert Ivy, congratulating Donald Trump for winning the presidential election and stating that the group’s members “stand ready to work with him.” Ivy received so much blowback as Kriston Capps reported, that he’s given at least two apologies.

Count a growing number of African-American AIA members among the most displeased, despite Ivy’s mea culpas. Bryan C. Lee Jr., education chair for the National Organization of Minority Architects, posted an open letter to Ivy in Medium today on behalf of a group of black architects assembled under the hashtag #AIAforDesignJustice. Lee, who works as the director of Place and Civic Design for the Arts Council of New Orleans, wrote that the architecture profession as a whole “has suffered from a crisis of internal and public confidence for a while and is currently going through a bit of a revolt after Robert Ivy’s ill-advised, unwarranted, and unnecessary letter of support for the President-Elect.”

Lee wrote that “it was wholly irresponsible to conscribe all 89,000 members of the AIA into a commitment to work with this objectively bigoted administration.” He also referenced a similar controversy from 1968, when civil rights leader Whitney Young blasted the AIA at its own national convention for remaining silent in the wake of Jim Crow. Lee called on the AIA to commit itself more to the principles of design justice, a set of principles cultivated by architects of color to incorporate racial equity into urban design and planning.

Asked why his letter needed to be published after Ivy’s apology, Lee told CityLab that he wanted to make a deeper statement about how the organization should operate going forward:

This is less about an aggrievement with Mr. Ivy, whom I know to be a good, well-intentioned person, and more about calling out and defining the faulty mechanics that allow institutions like the AIA to make such a mistake. Far too often apologies are issued as a means to move past and through an uncomfortable situation without forceful action to back it up. I hope that this note can frame this conversation outside of a political lens and to serve as a call to action around designing for justice as a core tenet of our profession.

Read Lee’s letter in full here. For more on design justice, you can hear Lee give a presentation about it at SXSW ECO earlier this year in the video below:

-->

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of yellow vest protesters in Paris, France.
    Equity

    To Understand American Political Anger, Look to ‘Peripheral France’

    French geographer Christophe Guilluy has a controversial diagnosis of working-class resentment in the age of Trump, Brexit, and the Yellow Vests.

  2. Equity

    Why Housing Policy Feels Like Generational Warfare

    To Millennials, at least.

  3. A rendering of a co-living building in San Jose.
    Life

    The Largest Co-Living Building in the World Is Coming to San Jose

    The startup Starcity plans to build an 800-unit, 18-story “dorm for adults” to help affordably house Silicon Valley’s booming workforce.

  4. A cat lays flat on a bench at a park on the outskirts of Tokyo.
    Life

    Why Don't Americans Use Their Parks At Night?

    Most cities aren’t fond of letting people use parks after dark. But there are good lifestyle, environmental, and safety reasons to reconsider.

  5. a screenshot of a video about Baltimore's Metro
    Transportation

    It’s Time to Celebrate Baltimore’s Much-Maligned Metro

    In 1987, the Maryland Transit Administration busted out a brass band to open a subway that never had a chance.

×