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. Life

    Amazon Go Might Kill More Than Just Supermarkets

    Supermarkets are community anchors. Amazon’s “just walk out” version embodies a disconcerting social transformation.

  2. Transportation

    The EU Is Giving Teens a Month of Free Train Travel Across Europe

    The cultural enrichment plan could change young lives, and maybe even revive the heyday of the Interrail train pass.

  3. It's Google Street View, but with a dose of cuteness.

    Take a Virtual Tour of Japan With 3 Very Good Boys

    Three Akita dogs guide you through their home city of Odate on Google Street View.

  4. Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters

    Where Hate Groups Are Concentrated in the U.S.

    Organized hate groups are found in 340 counties—but those counties spread across every state of the union.

  5. Transportation

    An 'Instant Bridge' Collapses Near Miami, and Many Questions Remain

    Florida International University’s new pedestrian bridge was state-of-the-art. On Thursday, the new span failed, killing six.