Design Organizations Weigh in on Racial Injustice and the Killing of George Floyd
A growing roster of groups from the architecture and design profession are speaking out about the killing of George Floyd and systemic racial injustice in the United States.
Click the following links to read statements from the National Organization of Minority Architects, the AIA, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the AIA New York and Center for Architecture, the AIA's Board of Directors, the Architectural League of New York, the International WELL Building Institute, Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, and the International Living Futures Institute.
The following is a statement from the International Living Futures Institute, released June 8, 2020:
To our entire ILFI community,
ILFI stands in solidarity with the Black community at this time. We stand together in grief. And we stand together against the innumerable injustices, unspeakable violence, and centuries of oppression, racism, and white supremacy, most of it perpetrated by our fellow citizens, many of whom were sworn to protect our lives. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery’s names are sadly just some of the most recent on a long list of lives cut too short.
This must stop now. Black Lives Matter.
Each of us needs to listen and lend our support. Look to the resources at the bottom of this message to guide your action. Beyond the broader movement, we also have an obligation to take action within our own organization and industry.
ILFI was founded on the vision of a Living Future that is inclusive, not exclusive. We have the most ambitious, rigorous, forward-thinking programs in the world for green buildings, healthy materials, transparent organizations, and more. We lead fearlessly, and we preach loudly. But we are not reaching everyone; our industry is still perpetuating racism.
While social justice is at the core of our mission, ILFI has immense work ahead of us. Expanding on the Equity Petal, ILFI launched the Just program in 2012 to promote socially just and equitable organizations. But we need to do more to address the structural inequity that is so pervasive in our society. ILFI needs to review every program, every piece of educational material, and every event we host. We need to evaluate the barriers that have kept the number of licensed Black architects in America to less than 2% of the total (AIA). And we, too, need to provide access to and lend our voice to leaders and experts from Black communities, the Indigenous, and People of Color communities—so that ideas are made stronger, more sustainable, and pursue a true Living Future.
Here are some of the concrete steps we have committed to take:
Within our organization
Broaden ILFI’s board, executive management and staff, and global network of Ambassadors and Collaboratives to better represent the world we live in.
Continue to examine our full suite of programs and initiatives to eliminate buried biases and add missing content that is critical to advancing equity in the built environment.
Ensure that our equity- and justice-specific work, such as the Equity Petal and Just program, fully incorporates anti-racism principles.
Within our industry
Continue to support existing green building anti-racism coalitions, such as the NAACP’s Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector initiative, which are the leaders on these issues.
Continue to act as a convener, a platform, and a leader in sharing outside voices and differing perspectives.
Achieving equity and racial justice demands standing in the literal and virtual front lines with our fellow Americans and global citizens, and saying “No More.” Be courageous in this moment. Be as courageous as you are when designing a living building or living community. Be committed in this moment. At a certain point, the protests will stop—the media will move on—but your voice will still be needed: to plan, to organize, to vote, and to support change.
Thank you for being part of the work we are doing to create a Living Future that is socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative.
– Anthony Guerrero, Board Chair, ILFI
The following is a statement from the Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, released June 5, 2020:
As a predominantly black firm working for the liberation of black and brown people, we are hurting and deeply grieving with you. We are grieving for the intolerable and constant deaths of black and brown people at the hands of the police, and all the other lives lost through the impacts of mass incarceration. This is why we are prison abolitionists. Since our founding, we have stood for the complete unbuilding and radical reimagining of the criminal justice system and its financial and racial underpinnings.
We are not content to repair some windows or simply “improve” what we had before. What we had before and have today is an architecture of oppression, built on the backs of slaves and the bodies of prisoners. Now we are in a moment of protest and listening. What we will need is an architecture of liberation. Communities must plan and design new systems of justice, and all levels of government must stop building structures that oppress us and start working with us.
#1: Divest / Invest!
The criminal “justice” system is paid for with public money—our money. We must divest from the institutions that oppress and traumatize us and reinvest in healing, restoration, and empowerment. People of color are taxpayers, too—for far too long we have been paying for the infrastructure of injustice. As everyone now understands, thanks to COVID-19 and #BlackLivesMatter, public safety is not the police; public safety is healthcare, jobs, education, housing, and social cohesion within all our communities.
With the Ella Baker Center and ROC United, DJDS recently completed Restore Oakland, the nation's first building dedicated to restorative justice and restorative economics. All our communities must have access to and ownership of programs and places like these.
#2: Ignite Radical Imagination!
Nobody yet knows what the architecture of liberation will look like. Black and brown communities are speaking out now, and we must recognize that they (we) are the only experts that can identify the goals to aim for in rebuilding and restoring communities. There must be an enduring and honest commitment from all levels of government that significantly shifts resources to the most vulnerable. We, as architects, designers, planners, and developers, can help by supporting the urgent radical imagining and planning that must happen now to build a truly just future.
In partnership with the Mayor's Office of Atlanta, DJDS brought Atlanta residents to the table to transform the Atlanta City Detention Center into a Center for Equity by playing the Planning and Finance Game. Watch the reimagining process in action.
#3: Close Jails!
Prisons and jails are the built environment’s knee on the necks of our most systematically marginalized brothers and sisters. Now is the time to close these buildings and liberate our cities and rural communities. Tens of thousands of men and women are already being released from our prisons and jails in response to the pandemic. They and their families need places that offer healing, job training, short-term shelter, and other resources. We are working with community partners in the City of Atlanta to transform an oppressive jail into a Center for Equity—a hub for building social and economic equity in the black community. Every jail across the United States should be transformed into a Center for Equity.
We know that the architecture of mass incarceration is the expression of racism in the built environment. The time is now to unbuild its structures and imagine the architecture of liberation.
The DJDS Team
The following is a statement from the International WELL Building Institute, released June 5, 2020:
Black Lives Matter.
At IWBI, we stand for health and all human rights. Those rights were denied to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery when their lives were cut short. Their murders - and the loss of so many other Black lives - record in sharp relief that we’ve not done nearly enough to fortify our cities, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and homes to protect the Black community against racism, oppression and injustice.
The civil rights movement in the U.S. proved the power of place and its ability to welcome or to reject, to integrate or to segregate, to empower or to disempower, to help or to harm. There is much more work to do to ensure that the places where we live, work, gather and heal not only safeguard Black people but also help Black families and communities to flourish. This has to be the bedrock of our collective efforts.
To channel our outrage and our anger around this unending cascade of injustice into lasting, systemic change, we are making a commitment to do better: to hold ourselves accountable to the values we believe in and to take persistent action. We will begin our work by meeting today as an all-staff, global team to discuss how we can match our actions with our aspirations - how we can dedicate ourselves and our organization’s resources - our dollars, our time, our platform, our programs, our daily efforts - to celebrate diversity and combat bias and racism. We commit to sharing transparently with you as we put the pieces in place.
These efforts hinge on our ability to pose hard questions and truly listen to our fellow team members and the WELL community at large:
What will we do to recruit more people of color to be part of our team? How can we fundamentally challenge our own ways of thinking and being? How can we better recognize unconscious bias and commit to courageous conversations to evolve ourselves and our collective consciousness? And can we inspire similar explorations across our community? How can we use our platform to help diversify the industry and highlight Black voices? How will we stay connected to one another in this moment and how can we show up in support and solidarity for our Black friends, family, neighbors and colleagues?
We are also thinking about the WELL movement: What should our mission of market transformation look like as applied to equity, inclusion and diversity, and how can we continuously raise the bar to help organizations and communities achieve it? What can we do to make WELL more accessible? How can we proactively diversify our community of WELL APs and champions? How can we influence the flow of capital to underwrite the change we collectively seek?
At IWBI, we acknowledge that we have work to do, from the inside out, in order to better show up for the Black community. We commit to doing that work. We commit to sharing our process with you as we learn. We encourage you to join us, and are grateful to every one of you who have already raised your hands to do just that.
We are listening: email@example.com.
– Rick Fedrizzi, Chairman & CEO; Rachel Gutter, President
The following is a statement from the Architectural League of New York, released June 5, 2020:
The murder of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis—and the murders of Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others—lays bare, yet again, the pervasive and enduring racism that disfigures American society.
Simultaneous with these deaths, systemic racist violence shows itself as part of all of the converging crises of this moment: the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant economic collapse; climate change; our ongoing “everyday” crises of police brutality, housing insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, radically unequal and unjust education and criminal legal systems, and overarching economic inequality. Each of these sources of oppression in American society has had and is having massively disproportionate impacts on Black and brown Americans.
Every system, every institution in American society, including the discipline of architecture, is implicated. The built environment—our public, private, and civic spaces, and the ways we design, construct, and inhabit them—reifies lopsided power relationships, economic inequality, and thwarted opportunity. Through inadequately examined design, planning, and land-use decisions; through the negligent or malevolent location of infrastructure, “renewal,” and noxious uses in poor and minority neighborhoods; through embodying and failing to challenge the aggrandizement of Whiteness and the depreciation of Blackness and all other cultures in aesthetic, technological, and historical norms and values; through our inadequate commitment to helping provide the human right of adequate shelter and other basic needs, we perpetuate the status quo and the unjust world it has created.
Dismantling and rebuilding these systems and practices—and the very structures of American society—is not the work of a month or a year; it is work that must engage all of us, immediately, continuously, for a lifetime.
We commit The Architectural League to ongoing action for change.
– Paul Lewis, President; Rosalie Genevro, Executive Director; and the board and staff of The Architectural League
The following is a statement from AIA New York and the Center for Architecture, released June 1, 2020:
The events of the past week and the injustices that these events are forcing us to confront have been heartbreaking and overwhelming. On May 25, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, MN. His name was added to a long list of victims of unjust violence towards black communities and other communities of color in America. This is nothing new, we have crossed this ground before in our history. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report warned that, “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, and one white—separate and unequal.” The burden of this pain and suffering, while not felt equally, must fall on all of us.
AIA New York and the Center for Architecture, as two organizations dedicated to furthering the practice of architecture to the highest of standards, place design excellence at the very core of our mission. In the most fundamental sense, we rely on our built environment to provide spaces for shelter, for employment, for governance, for entertainment, and for public gathering—including, when necessary, spaces for protest. Architecture and architects have a vital role in healing injustice, and we must hold ourselves accountable.
The current COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic fallout have only served to underscore the existing structures of racial inequality in our society. While we have all been experiencing this crisis, we are not all impacted equally. Black people and people of color have felt health and economic impacts most acutely, including within the architecture profession. This glaring inequality serves as a call to action, and our organizations feel this at the deepest level.
Now is the time to have more difficult conversations about what our community and profession can do to make change, and to work for justice and fair access to opportunity and wellbeing. An architect offers society specific skills that are not accessible to everyone and is often in a position of privilege; thus it falls on our community to put our hard-won problem-solving skills to work in the struggle for a more just and equitable society. This cannot be done if our profession continues to fail to reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.
AIA New York and the Center for Architecture are committed to offering our members and our community a platform for joint problem solving. We will commit to reminding ourselves, and encouraging you, to listen to our peers of color, starting with this statement on racial injustice by the National Organization of Minority Architects.
While we seek to amplify the voices of people of color in our profession, the burden of seeking solutions falls on us all. We invite architects and architecture firms to share with one another the ways in which they are working to dismantle inequality in their practices and in their work, and we look forward to creating opportunities for this shared action.
And most immediately, we ask members of our community to use their voices to support justice, to engage in active listening, to ensure they are registered to vote, and to consider how they as individuals and we as a community can meaningfully create a more just and equitable city, nation, and world.
The following is a statement from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) President Wendy Miller, released June 1, 2020:
We are all horrified by the events that unfolded over the last several days. I am personally roiling with emotions, watching in real-time the injustices and inequitable treatment of people and communities who are in anguish because of centuries of racial discrimination. As landscape architects, we work to ensure that all persons have the right to equitable access to environmental and community benefits in the places they live, work, and learn. Now is the time for us to work to help ensure that these communities have fair and equitable treatment in all aspects of life.
ASLA issued a second statement—titled "Black Lives Matter. Black Communities Matter."—on June 5, 2020:
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) joins millions of people around the world in mourning the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by a police officer.
ASLA recognizes that the brutal systems of slavery and Jim Crowism have dehumanized black people and weakened their communities. We also acknowledge that the planning and design of the built environment, including landscape architecture, has often had a disproportionate adverse impact on black communities. Systemic racism in the built environment has taken many forms, including redlining, urban renewal, and disinvestment. Environmental injustices, including lack of equitable access to clean air and water and greater concentrations of pollution, continue to plague these communities. Further, gentrification and displacement make it impossible for black communities to continue to exist. The landscape architecture profession can play a critical role in reversing these trends.
Public spaces have always been a critically important platform for the protest movement and democratic change. They have also become sites of violent confrontation and oppression against the black community. It is important that ASLA and others amplify the black narrative of these spaces.
ASLA stands in solidarity with black communities in the fight against racial injustice and police violence against black people. Moving forward, ASLA will deepen our partnership with the Black Landscape Architects Network (BlackLAN) to create a meaningful, sustainable plan of action to help guide the profession in addressing the wants and needs of black communities—no matter how much work and time it takes. Black Lives Matter.
The following is a statement from National Trust for Historic Preservation President Paul Edmondson, released May 30, 2020:
Like so many others, I have been profoundly dismayed and deeply saddened at what is happening in our country. George Floyd’s horrific and inexcusable death in Minneapolis; the shooting of peaceful protestors in Louisville; the fomenting of violence; destructive outbreaks in cities across the country; and the politicization of what should have been a compassionate response by leaders in our society: I would like to think that America is better than this. It is evident, however, that we have a long way to go to ensure that justice and equity are applied to all Americans.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has made a commitment as an institution to ensure that our own work reflects the equal value of every single American in our history and in our culture. A major reflection of that commitment is the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, created by the National Trust in response to the tragic events in Charlottesville in August of 2017.
We believe that historic preservation can play a critical role in acknowledging and healing the divisions in our nation, by telling the full story of our often-difficult history, by elevating and preserving the enormous and important contributions African Americans have made to our nation, and by carrying that powerful legacy forward through places of truth and reconciliation. We also believe that recognizing the dedication of communities of color to the American experiment through the places we work to save—from Rosenwald schools to the home of Madame C.J. Walker—will help to inspire innovation, investment, and faith in our democracy.
Each of us, in our own communities, businesses, and institutions at all levels, must commit to do all we can to create constructive spaces where justice and peace can flourish—including in those places that reflect our history as Americans. If we are successful, we will find our way to a more unified society, where outbreaks of pain and outrage will become only a thing of the past. We have much work to do in this country to acknowledge and shift a legacy begun hundreds of years ago, but I firmly believe we can find a way to healing and peace by respecting the humanity of every person, and by making that evident in the very fabric of our communities.
The following is a statement from American Institute of Architects 2020 President Jane Frederick, FAIA, released May 30, 2020:
"As Americans, we are mindful of this nation’s dark history of racial inequality. We are appalled by any actions that further threaten the universal respect and human dignity that everyone deserves. As architects, we remain committed to advancing civil rights protections, fair housing policies, and accessibility in the built world to help achieve the more perfect union we all seek. The fact is that architects and AIA, in our more than 160-year history, have not always felt compelled to share our perspectives. But the times we live in, the horrific nature of the events we witness, and the role we see for every member of our society demands that we speak out."
This is an evolving story; please check back for updates.