AIA’s Post-Election Statement Provokes Backlash
"We’re sorry we’ve hurt and angered our constituents," says CEO Robert Ivy. Watch the AIA's apology video below.
Last Wednesday, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) CEO Robert Ivy issued a short statement on the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, affirming that “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,” and concluding that “It is now time for all of us to work together to advance policies that help our country move forward.”
In the days since, Ivy’s words have sparked a firestorm of responses from many members of the profession who found his statement—as described by architecture critic Michael Sorkin —“temperate, agreeable, indeed feckless.” Through essays, open letters, online comment sections, and social media, members of the profession have made their opinions on both the AIA’s statement and the president-elect heard.
In an essay published Friday, Sorkin wrote: “While [Ivy’s] words appear anodyne and reflect the judicious position and celebration of America’s history of peaceful transitions of power articulated by both President Obama and Hillary Clinton, they are an embarrassment to those of us who feel that the Trump presidency represents a clear and present danger to many values that are fundamental to both our nation and our profession.”
The Equity Alliance—a group that works to promote conversation about equitable practice in architecture—echoed some of Sorkin’s sentiments in an open letter addressed to Ivy. “Please recognize that, in word and in action, you perpetuated our profession’s white, male privilege,” read the letter signed by five representatives of the organization.
On Architectural Record's post about the AIA statement, many commenters cited Trump’s remarks about immigrants, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities when asking how the AIA could support his presidency. Several are even questioning their continued membership with the Institute.
“This spineless posturing for economic gain in the direct face of misogynistic, racist speech is disgusting,” wrote one reader. “This makes me want to relinquish my membership.”
Similarly, architect Lori Day of Chicago wrote, “I thought the AIA was supposed to be looking out for the best interest of ALL its members? Have you thought about the 16% of the AIA that is composed of women? I guarantee this will quickly evaporate to 0% if you continue to support this person.” Day told RECORD she does not intend to rejoin the organization.
Another open letter came from the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE), noting architects’ role in creating a sustainable built environment. “We have an ethical duty and know from experience that it is possible to make buildings that are better for public health and safety while reducing or eliminating their contribution towards climate change—the ultimate public health threat,” reads the letter. It did not name the president-elect or directly address Ivy’s statement.
In that same vein, commenters on ArchitecturalRecord.com reacted to Trump's widely-reported views on climate change. “What concerns me the most is that AIA could possibly accept and endorse the president-elect without any mention of the damage his stated position on the environment would bring,” wrote RECORD reader Betsy Delmonte. “We are the creators of the built environment, and we must take responsibility for what we provide for our society.”
Benjamin Prosky, executive of the AIA New York Chapter and the Center for Architecture, tells RECORD that he hopes upset members will speak out, but also turn to their chapter before leaving the organization entirely.
“Architects are trained to provide shelter and safety. If you are doing this, then it should be from a place of inclusiveness,” says Prosky. “Our chapter really believes in that. We will be assuring our members of our commitment to core values and we will also be asking them what they would like to see the chapter doing.”
RECORD reached AIA CEO Robert Ivy by phone Monday evening. "First, we say we’re sorry. I mean that sincerely. I say that we’re sorry we’ve hurt and angered our constituents," he said.
"We have definitely listened and heard people within the community. They have spoken loudly and clearly. This has been an election unlike any that any of us has experienced, and unfortunately the statement that we issued hurt and angered many people," said Ivy. "If it sounded as if we approve of the election results, that was not its intention. The AIA never endorses political candidates."
Ivy indicated the organization would be making efforts in the near future to seek more member input.
This is a developing story, and responses to the AIA’s statement are continuing to emerge. Check back for updates and links to new responses, follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #NotMyAIA, and post your comments on this story below.
A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed the Equity Alliance’s letter to Equity by Design, a committee of the AIA San Francisco.