Architects attack AIA for letter of support to Trump

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Architects erupt over a memo supportive of President-Elect Donald Trump, issued by the American Institute of Architects.

President-elect Donald Trump has stated that one of his top priorities is to spend $500 billion overhauling the nation’s infrastructure.

That goal prompted the American Institute of Architects to fire off a memo within hours of Trump’s election victory. Robert Ivy, the AIA’s executive vice president and CEO, penned the open letter in which he stated:

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. 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.

Now, his words echo the calls by President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton to work with the president-elect for the good of the country.

Not every architect agrees, and plenty of them lashed back at the AIA for offering Trump a warm reception. Many took to Twitter, using the hashtag #NotMyAIA. The editorial board of The Architect’s Newspaper issued its own response in support of AIA members who disagreed with Ivy’s memo.

Michael Sorkin is principal of Michael Sorkin Studio in New York, and he is architecture critic for The Nation. He wrote an open letter in response to the AIA called Architecture Against Trump, and spoke to DnA.

“I think that it was extremely premature. I think he jumped the gun in terms of his cordial reception to a Trump administration. And I think that the letter constituted an act of misdirection. Lots of people are up in arms about Trump. They have been for years. And to ignore his actual role in the built environment, his practices over the years as a developer, as a politician and as a citizen, I think is craven,” Sorkin told DnA.

Sorkin said that the AIA could have condemned aspects of Trump’s agenda, such as constructing a multi-billion dollar wall between the U.S. and Mexico, or criticized Trump’s assertion that climate change is a hoax.

“Climate change and the defense of the environment are at the top of the ethical agenda of the architectural profession, and not to have noted this in this warm welcome to Trump, I think is irresponsible and myopic,” Sorkin said.

The American Institute of Architects heard loud and clear from their members. They issued an apology and released this video Monday evening:

A post-election message from AIA’s CEO and 2016 President from AIA Content Team on Vimeo.

DnA reached AIA executive vice president and CEO Robert Ivy, who called the original letter “tone deaf” and apologized for sending it without consulting with AIA’s membership.

“We never endorse political candidates ever. Not now, not ever,” Ivy said. “The reason that we want to be heard by the administration is to advocate for the things that we care about and they include things like diversity, inclusion, sustainability and climate change.”

Ivy said the AIA will do a better job of listening to its members and will then issue a more nuanced response to the Trump administration’s plans.