Human Rights & Trump
NOVEMBER 15, 2016
To the shock and dismay of many architects and supporters around the county, the American Institute of Architects issued a broad and uncritical statement last week stating its "willingness to work with the Trump administration." AIA must stand for the wellbeing of the architectural profession, but AIA’s uncritical embrace of the incoming Trump administration calls that into question. Local economies throughout much of the country need revitalization, but we do not believe that kissing up to a litigious billionaire will benefit the majority of architects and designers. A thriving profession requires a country of greater equality and shared prosperity, while deregulation threatens our our ability to deliver quality work and even our professional standing. Trump’s promises to end longstanding environmental protections when a higher standard of care is called for will make the buildings we deliver complicit in abusing our children and grandchildren for the sake of short-term gain. Above all, economic sustainability demands renewed respect for the earth and for all the people of the communities we live in and serve. AIA must immediately commit to protecting human rights as the Trump administration prepares to assume power.
It is not only our nation’s physical infrastructure that needs rebuilding, but after this divisive political campaign our social and political infrastructure needs restoration as well. Our profession has an essential role to play, not only through executing the building projects our country needs – schools, affordable housing, and everything that can reduce our carbon footprint to sustainable levels – but also in demonstrating civil, public-spirited, and inclusive leadership. AIA’s statement of partnership with the incoming administration somehow ignored that the President-elect, as a candidate, focused much of his campaign on threatening the dignity and human rights of women, Muslims, Latin@s, LGBT people, and others around the world, or that his victory once against frustrated the will of the American people through the mechanism of the antiquated electoral college. AIA’s uncritical statement of support for the next administration has been deeply unsettling to many architects, to say the least; AIA must immediately reassure its members and a nervous public that architects will respect human rights, protect our democratic values, and contribute to community economic development as a foundation of our work.
We demand that AIA immediately adopt a human rights Ethics Rule to prohibit member participation in projects intended to violate human rights, because we are deeply concerned that the Trump administration may attempt to suborn members into ethically unacceptable projects, and because members and the public deserve proof of good will after AIA’s tone-deaf promise of support for a threatening administration. This will also help to reassert our profession’s independence in civil society and our value to our local communities. With Mr. Trump’s authoritarian tone and his personal history of flouting the law (even refusing to pay AIA members for past work), we must also be cautious of threats to our democracy, and a renewed human rights commitment will do what our profession can to inoculate U.S. civil society more broadly against future abuse. Our profession can achieve great things, and we can work with a Trump administration, but we can only do so on our terms, rather than on his, as a profession devoted to design for the public good.