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AIA CEO: Sorry for ‘Tone-Deaf’ Statement

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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Leaders of the American Institute of Architects have issued a public apology, after drawing fire from its members and others in the architecture community for a statement released following the recent U.S. presidential election.

In the original statement issued Nov. 9, Robert Ivy, CEO of AIA, said the organization’s 89,000 members were committed to working with the President-elect Donald Trump and his administration to address issues the country faces, particularly strengthening the nation’s aging infrastructure.

Robert Ivy

Robert Ivy, CEO of AIA, has apologized for a statement issued following the contentious presidential election after an outcry from AIA members and others.

“During the campaign, President-elect Trump called for committing at least $500 billion to infrastructure spending over five years. We stand ready to work with him and with the incoming 115th Congress to ensure that investments in schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure continue to be a major priority. […]”

“This has been a hard-fought, contentious election process. It is now time for all of us to work together to advance policies that help our country move forward,” the statement read.

Statement Critized, Values Questioned

Those sentiments, however, did not sit well with members of the architecture community, prompting advocacy organizations, local AIA chapters and affiliated groups to speak out in opposition to Ivy’s statement. For example, in a response letter, the Boston Society of Architects/AIA expressed “shock and disappointment” in the post-election statement, noting that it “failed to acknowledge the serious contradictions between the Trump campaign and the AIA’s own mission and values.”

Some felt the statement was “tone-deaf and complacent with the President-elect’s hateful and racist campaign tactics as well as the incoming administration’s refusal to acknowledge climate change,” The Architect’s Newspaper reported.

In an essay, architecture critic Michael 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.”

A flurry of online comments, letters and social media posts were made under the hashtag #Notmyaia. Some claim they will withdraw from the association over the statement.

A Video Apology

The outcry prompted Ivy and Russ Davidson, AIA National president, to issue a video apology Monday (Nov. 14).

“Unfortunately, the statement I issued shortly after the results came in was tone-deaf and it resulted in hurt and anger by too many people,” Ivy admitted. “It did not reflect our larger values.”

“I sincerely apologize for that and I hope we can work together as a community to move forward.”

Davidson added that the AIA message that went out Wednesday was a “mistake.”

He further said that the organization remains bipartisan; and pledged its commitment to "diversity, equity and inclusion."

Davidson said the AIA would also work vigorously to advocate its sustainability agenda, including the impacts of climate change. The organization will also work hard to bring funding to rebuild communities around the country, he added.

“I sincerely hope that we can begin to heal from this incredibly painful election season and the harm the AIA statement caused,” said Davidson.

The AIA plans to hold a number of listening sessions and live events to hear the architects’ voices.

Based in Washington, D.C., the AIA has been the leading professional membership association for licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners since 1857.


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architects; Architecture; Associations; Business matters; Color + Design; Designers; Ethics; North America; Personnel

Comment from ken shepard, (11/16/2016, 5:39 AM)

The original statement sounded Bipartisan but the “public apology” certainly was not.

Comment from Roger Roberts, (11/16/2016, 8:47 AM)

Ken Shepard, I agree with you completely.

Comment from John Fauth, (11/16/2016, 8:49 AM)

When professional organizations become advocates for social/political ideologies, they cease to be professional, or relevant.

Comment from Mark Anater, (11/16/2016, 9:08 AM)

The Trump Administration is going to be a fact of life, and everyone including architects will have to deal with it. That said, calling out his naked appeals to bigotry and nativism does not qualify as partisan. Staying quiet about it only encourages more of the same, and that should not be acceptable to anyone.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (11/17/2016, 7:43 AM)

All professional organizations are political machines. Ideally the organization will have the best interests of the membership in mind, but that's not really necessary. The sum of the membership's influence is what professional organizations leverage to grow and retain members and what they use to lobby on regulatory issues related to the membership. A professional organization with no involvement in relevant policy development is irrelevant. What do you think the dues are for? Professional organizations dealing with only the technical aspects of a field are called clubs and don't need much in the way of funding or leadership.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (11/17/2016, 8:07 AM)

Although I think Trump will eventually be used as the centerpiece of the argument against democracy he is, as Mark notes, an irrefutable part of the commercial fabric we're all going to have to deal with. The most dangerous part of someone like Trump are the reactionary attitudes that get stirred up. The lot that whined about the association's CEO are a perfect example. They don't think things through and now they've created a divide in the public aspects of the organization. They screwed themselves and every other member of the organization. An organization is pointless if it doesn't speak with one voice. Every large and/or important professional organization is required by the etiquette of commerce to make a statement saying they're willing to work with a new President. He can't say nothing, so what's he supposed to say? "We think it sucks you were elected, therefore we are going to focus on making ourselves as annoying as possible and spend the next for years funding the development of a time machine enabling us to go push your mother into well before she has the opportunity to give birth to you". That'll go over really well with the association membership. There would be much gnashing of teeth and pulling of beards when Chinese architects suddenly had reciprocal licensing and didn't have to be licensed here if they are licensed in China. It's easier than you think.

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