On Monday evening, executive vice president and CEO of American Institute of Architects Robert Ivy and AIA National president Russ Davidson released a video apology for issuing a statement of support for President-elect Donald Trump on behalf of its members. The apology came amid a withering backlash from architects who opposed the statement’s sentiment and felt misrepresented by the national organization.
“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 said in his second response to the controversy. (The first, a letter to the editors of Architect’s Newspaper on Monday, can be found here.) “It did not reflect our larger values, and I hope we can work together as a community to move forward.”
Watch the statement in full:
The original statement in question, released just hours after the election results were announced, pledged to work alongside a Trump administration and support the president-elect’s plans to commit $500 billion to infrastructure spending over five years. It garnered swift criticism from individual architects, architecture firms, academics, and even local AIA chapters. A series of statements, open letters, and social media posts with the hashtag #NotMyAIA voiced frustrations at a statement that architect Michael Sorkin calls “temperate, agreeable, indeed feckless” in his response to the institute, entitled “Architecture Against Trump.”
The release of the video apology has done little to quash the controversy. Yesterday a new statement came from the design advocacy organization Open Architecture Collaborative, while several local AIA chapters published their own responses to the original statement. In an open letter to its members, the AIA New York chapter affirmed that the board was “not consulted by AIA National leadership prior to their decision to support President-elect Trump’s yet undefined infrastructure agenda, and we do not condone their statement.”
The leadership of the New York chapter would like to reassure our membership and extended community that we reject the violent rhetoric that has pervaded the recent presidential campaign and we oppose any association with it. We believe in inalienable rights, regardless of creed or nation of origin; gender or sexual orientation; language of birth or skin color.
The Boston Society of Architects/AIA released a similar statement, expressing its “shock and dismay” at the institute’s willingness to work with a Trump administration:
The architect Frederick “Fritz” Read, the founder and principal of Baltimore-based Read & Company Architects became the first member to resign from the organization yesterday, writing that “the AIA does not represent my personal or professional interests,” and that Ivy ought to resign, according to Architect’s Newspaper:
The alacrity with which Robert Ivy hopped out there to promise the president-elect that the AIA will play nice with his administration, without even a pro forma caution that what Mr. Trump has promised and threatened are deeply antithetical to the values that many of us cherish, is the final straw for me, the last bit of evidence I needed, that our only serious interest as an organization has become a craven interest in securing our piece of the action.
Read was joined by others calling for Ivy’s recognition. In the comments section of Architect’s Newspaper, architects like Mette Aamodt of the Cambridge-based Aamodt/Plumb Architects and Toronto-based NIA Architects also asked Ivy to step down. Dozens of architects who have responded–in statements to Architect’s Newspaper, in open letters, and on social media–have been firm in their condemnation of Trump’s hateful and racist campaign, as well as his refusal to acknowledge climate change.
But beyond that, many architects have also been vocal in questioning why the organization was so swift to put out a statement on behalf of its members. As AIANY put it in its open letter, AIA is “first and foremost a membership organization, and our members are our strength.” By not consulting its local leadership or its 89,000 members, the national AIA leadership has undercut the very foundation of the member-led organization.