After years of being called on to take an ethical stand against the design of incarceration spaces for execution, torture and solitary confinement, and refusing to do so, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2020 President Jane Frederick today announced the organization will now bar its architect members from undertaking such work. “AIA members are required to uphold the health, safety and welfare of the public,” said Frederick in a statement released by the AIA. “Spaces for execution, torture and prolonged solitary confinement contradict those values.” AIA is committed, she added, “to making a difference on this issue and upholding human rights for our society.”

The AIA had long rejected pressure from the Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) to adopt such a ban in its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

Last June, the ADPSR, citing the “AIA’s cruel and retrograde position in support of execution and solitary confinement design,” launched a new petition to demand the change in the Code of Ethics to “respect human rights and Black lives.”

According to the AIA statement, the organization engaged with ADPSR and the National Organization of Minority Architects in developing and adopting the new ethics rules.

Read the entire AIA press release here and below.

WASHINGTON – Dec. 11, 2020 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Board of Directors yesterday adopted new rules in its Code of Ethics regarding the design of justice facilities. This, among other things, reflects AIA’s ongoing effort to meaningfully address structural racism in the built environment and to uphold our professional values.

“We are committed to promoting the design of a more equitable and just built world that dismantles racial injustice and upholds human rights,” said AIA 2020 President Jane Frederick, FAIA. “Specifically, AIA members are required to uphold the health, safety and welfare of the public. Spaces for execution, torture and prolonged solitary confinement contradict those values. This decision emphasizes AIA’s commitment to making a difference on this issue and upholding human rights for our society.”

Specifically, the AIA Board approved new rules to the Institute’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct prohibiting members from knowingly designing spaces intended for execution and torture, including indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more per day without meaningful human contact, for more than 15 consecutive days. The Board’s position is that the design of such spaces is inconsistent with the profession’s fundamental responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and uphold human rights. A statement of position was also adopted by the Board stating the AIA and its members:

  •  Remain committed to working with their clients to promote criminal justice reform and rehabilitation, guided in part by positions taken by the International Red Cross, the United Nations, and other human rights organizations; 
  • Remain focused on design solutions to promote rehabilitation to address issues impacting recidivism such as mental health, health care, housing, education and employment; and 
  •  Strive to ensure that the physical needs, health, dignity and human potential of all those who come in contact with the justice system are respected and given the opportunity to flourish.

AIA will create a task group to better define restorative justice in the context of the profession, collaborate with its partners to identify best practices, and develop resources and educational opportunities for members over the next several months.  

AIA has considered the role of architects in the design of spaces for execution and prolonged solitary confinement for a number of years and most recently engaged with the National Organization of Minority Architects, Architects/Planners/Designers for Social Responsibility, and the Academy of Architecture for Justice, an AIA knowledge community, to gain more understanding of these issues and the larger context of justice through design. In July, the Board directed the AIA National Ethics Council to re-examine the issue. This followed the AIA’s statement on racial injustice in June prompted by social movements, demands for justice and the nation’s unprecedented reckoning with inequity.

Visit AIA’s website to review the complete text of the new rules added to AIA’s Code of Ethics.