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The Wall vs AIA

  • 1.  The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-06-2017 11:59
    Architects do architecture. When they slide out into socially inflamed situations why don't they step outside the American Institute of Architects to protest and exhibit. There are many professional organizers who will love to have anyone. No pre-qualification required.

    So much for those do gooders. It would be much more appropriate for architects to stay in their own comfort zone of architecture and leave those issues of extreme disagreement to those properly informed.

    For goodness sake, the next thing we'll see is the cages of lions being torn down in the middle of D.C.!!

    H. Woodward Middleton, AIA

  • 2.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-11-2017 11:21

    Couldn't disagree more.  Are architects not fully-formed human beings with moral conscience?  Are we not educated in the sciences, arts, and humanities?  Are we not aware of or responsible for the effects of our actions?  Are we mere professional automatons, only doing the bidding of our paymasters?  Should we be confined to only speaking out as individuals, each one screaming futilely into the wind?  Doesn't the AIA help individual architects get beyond the daily grind of their work and make their more elevated abilities and duties real?


    Rob Hosken, AIA, C.E.M.

    090611 flower house logo color D2

    2121 Noblestown Road, Suite 222

    Pittsburgh, PA 15205

    (412) 441-1075 office

    (412) 774-2804 fax

    (412) 576-3743 mobile


  • 3.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-14-2017 17:11
    I think McDonough put it best when he spoke of visiting Auschwitz and he asked the question, when does an architect put his pencil down and say-no, I won't design this; be a party to it? Given the broad social influence and distillation architecture embodies I have to agree that politics, resistance or otherwise, is not something we should try or even can avoid. The moment one draws a line, a side has been taken-an idea initiated.

    Julian King AIA
    julian king architect
    New York NY

  • 4.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-14-2017 17:11
    I agree with Rob Hoskin.  Thank you Mr. Hoskin.

    As professionals and human beings we have the moral obligation to SAY NO to what we believe is wrong - to speak out against wrong and also to speak up for what we do believe in.  There are a lot of ways to do both.

    For one I don't have any intention of supporting 'the wall' in any way.  And while I have bigger fish to fry than the wall I also speak against it to my friends and acquaintances and even to the readers of this list. I think its wrong, will be ineffective and is a terrible waste of money. There is a major shortage of agricultural workers in California actually with a need to import workers. These are human beings, not an evil hoard contrary to what some are saying. I would rather see the money go many other things such as allowing many more qualified or even semi-qualified people across the border, job training (and granting green cards), appropriate housing (architects), renewable energy (architects), combating climate change (architects), the EPA, quality health care for all that is fairly priced, etc., etc., etc.

    Then there is plenty of positive efforts each of us can take to support what we believe in professionally and socially.  Make sustainability a priority in your business, volunteer for an AIA committee or working group; volunteer at your local USGBC chapter, volunteer at a youth center, a senior center, at a religious institution of your choice and/or at an ethical society of your choice, write your legislators, spend time with your spouse, children, grandchildren, and maybe even protest a little or a lot. Don't sit back and let what you don't like happen to you.  Work for positive change, and make some noise or a helluva noise.


    Ralph Bicknese AIA, LEED AP BD+C, LEED Fellow
    Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects
    St. Louis, MO

  • 5.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-14-2017 17:11
    Architecture enjoys legal standing as a profession because we have made a commitment to protect the health, safety and welfare of the communities in which we practice. This means understanding and communicating the impacts of the built environment on the quality of life to that community. If we only think of our community as the people immediately around us, the ones that look and act like we do, then we can ignore issues like the border wall. If we take a broader and more inclusive view of community, then a response is definitely warranted.

    Sam Watkins AIA
    Good Fulton & Farrell Architects
    Dallas TX

  • 6.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-14-2017 17:11
    Inattention and indifference on the part of citizens has led us to today's situation.
    Engagement is critical - the idea of wasting billions on a useless border wall while denying our role in climate change and backing off environmental remediation is a violation of our ethical obligations as architects.
    Wake up and get to work.

    Ralph Bennett FAIA
    Bennett Frank McCarthy Architects, Inc.
    Silver Spring MD

  • 7.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-19-2017 11:06

    Thanks Ralph,

    I would hope that the organization that represents the values of our profession , i.e., AIA (and its component Chapters),  would - forcefully and unequivocally - go on public record denouncing the concept of constructing the envisioned Trump Wall along the US southern border (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California).


    Physically, functionally, and economically, the Wall is a total waste.  Symbolically, it is medieval.  What does the noble profession stand for?  How difficult is it for our AIA Board of Directors to take a stand?    


    Roger Schluntz, FAIA


    School of Architecture and Planning

    University of New Mexico


  • 8.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-19-2017 11:07
    Seems to be a lot of kind of absolutist stands being taken on the question of the border wall, which were likely somewhat a reaction to the way the president framed his position about the wall in the first place. I would suggest that we as architects are trained to think, and to identify the problems that we face, and then review potential solutions. It may well be that there is disagreement as to the nature of the problem. The concern that many have is that we have extremely porous borders that are very difficult to secure, and that these borders allow not just people that are seeking a better life, but also terrorists entry into the country. My understanding is that the intent is to create a securable border, and then implement a reasonable immigration policy - which does not seem unreasonable. There are certainly discussions to be had about cost of doing this, and whether the cost makes sense vs some other approach to solving the problem, but these are the conversations that should be taking place, I would argue. Propose an alternative solution that addresses the issues, rather than just making what some seem to be framing as a moral stand with which no one who is moral should disagree. We should be problem solvers, let's see someone propose a credible alternative! Not sure that the discussion has to be either/or between this and other issues.

    Andrew Cronan AIA
    Senior Vice-president
    Guernsey Tingle Architects
    Williamsburg VA

  • 9.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-19-2017 11:06
    H. Woodward Middleton - I must say that I normally would express this post as "I feel that..." or  "from my perspective..."  or "don't you think that..." but I cannot water down this statement.

    You are wrong. 

    Architects who "do architecture" are artists and expressionists who care nothing for the people who use the building or project. They set aside the amazing and informative context of the space, and are foolishly unaware of the complexities of the installation in time. These "architects" are at most two dimensional beings creating with ego in the lead in a three dimensional realm. Enjoy your magazine covers.

    We must work with the systems we exist within if we are to exist, and those systems include the complex networks of resources, energy, community and, unfortunately, politics as a factor of that community. The founder of Patagonia has said that with no environment there are no customers, no stakeholder, no business.  At the very least you must seek to understand that simple and entirely understandable concept.

    Jodi Smits Anderson AIA
    Director Sustainability Programs
    Albany NY

  • 10.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-24-2017 09:59

    Apart from building a wall or physical barrier along the United States–Mexico border that was conceived with malevolent intentions, there are two additional issues, which have received little attention that our profession should bring to the attention of the American public.

    First, Texas has the longest border with Mexico and only 100 miles of fencing – a 1,254-mile border along the Rio Grande River, or the flying distance between Boston and Miami. A border wall and access road would be built on the U.S. side of the river outside the flood plain. In some sections the wall would be miles from the river because the Rio Grande twists and snakes through the region and the barrier would not follow the actual border.

    This would cut the entire United States and state of Texas off from 1,254 miles of the Rio Grande River and essentially cede access to the river, its reservoirs, and the land from the river to the wall, to the Mexico side.

    People, animals, and livestock on the U.S. side of the wall would not be able to reach the river, its water, recreation areas, reservoirs, or wildlife. It would take place in a hot semi-arid region, expected to get hotter and drier with climate change, where water is a precious and life sustaining resource.

    Second, and more important, a wall or barrier that prevents people from passing through, would also disrupt all animal migration corridors along the Rio Grande border, isolate animal populations, fragment and decimate wildlife and habitats, threaten one of the most biodiverse areas in the U.S., and destroy hundreds of millions of dollars in wildlife tourism for towns on both sides of the border.

    In other words, planning and designing a physical barrier that causes irreparable harm to both people and wildlife is both a shameful and immoral act.

    -- Edward Mazria FAIA

    Edward Mazria FAIA
    Founder And Executive Director
    Architecture 2030
    Santa Fe NM

  • 11.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-26-2017 15:01
    Mr. Mazria provides many reasons to oppose a wall between the US and Mexico. 
    I agree with all of them.
    Joanne Goldfarb, AIA

  • 12.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-26-2017 15:02
    Amen Brother!

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 13.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-26-2017 18:16

    We should all HOPE that the "wall" will be built "outside the flood plain," if it is in fact constructed. There are many on both sides of the border who have concerns about water flow and drainage from stormwater generated by hurricanes, such as events in 2008 and 2014. This would include issues from trapped debris along "open" fencing, as well as walls of solid construction.  And "solid" is another concept that is somewhat ambiguous, when dealing with man-made structures faced with natural forces.  Ask the folks who lived in the punch bowl which was New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  The floodwalls collapsed here because the depth of the driven sheet piles underneath the "I-wall" was insufficient to hold back the water in the 17th street canal.  In other words, this was a man-made disaster.  Does the planned "wall" run through any towns on the US side?  Will the flood plain actually CHANGE Because of this wall?  There is of course a treaty between the US and Mexico which likely applies to such a structure on the US side of the border.  Which may be the subject of lengthy litigation before an international tribunal. All this looks and feels like the built environment to me. I clearly remember General Kelly talking about a "virtual" wall, and other measures short of an actual wall, which will accomplish the same security goals, perhaps better than the "wall."  Back to the drawing board?


    Charles Floca, AIA




  • 14.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-26-2017 18:19
    ...what a profound and salient observation. thank you Ed Mazria. I will be quoting you on this point.

    Matthew Green AIA
    Urban Bobcat Architects, PC
    Fort Worth TX

  • 15.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 04-27-2017 16:26

    Have to agree with the OP, but without negating the passions of the disagreeing replies.

    The original post does not suggest Architects should not be passionate about this issue.

    He asks, rather, and, I think, reasonably and rationally, why the AIA is wading into this as an organization that is ostensibly set up to advocate for the Architectural profession. Not one critical post has answered that question in a way that does anything but exclaim, with great emotion but no greater rhetorical strength for it: "Because!".

    That's not a good enough reason to hijack an organization beyond its mission for our own pet causes, however grand, or even morally justified we think they are, or they may in fact be. This isn't building Auschwitz. It's a dispute about national immigration policy and law with perhaps some issues of environmental impacts on the lands of a few states. And it certainly has little to no bearing on the issues that directly affect our practice and profession across the nation.

    Go out and protest, resist, or whatever you decide is the right thing for you to do. But do it as you. Leave the AIA out of it. And if the AIA is going to get into it, I too, as a member, would like to know on what grounds the organization is using my (extremely high) dues for something that hasn't anything to do with supporting my profession and it's standing in what is a very competitive market and economy.

    Michael Poloukhine AIA
    ReSquare Architecture + Construction
    Los Angeles CA

  • 16.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-02-2017 11:58
    I understand what you are saying, yet you are not understanding the core issue.
    Defending the profession is the role of the AIA. In order to do that, we first need to define what an "architect" is.

    My position is that architects are trained critical thinkers who not only serve (yes, serve) as fascilitators in communication between clients and the building industry, but more properly as representatives for all parties to achieve excellent buildings and spacial experiences. "All parties" includes the environment, as we all share resources, the building users, the communIt's that is affected, as well as whomever is footing the bill for the design and construction.

    We have the right and more so the responsibility to be advocates for all of these parties, lest we become a profession limited to creation of prettiness without soul and without functional worth.

    The AIA must defend and support architects - the full meaning of this calling, not just the convenient professional designation that limits itself to limited, tunnel-vision  approaches, and total lack of innovative interdependence. In defending the comprehensive vocation of architect (be all you can be) the AIA must use its voice to remind people that architects are professionals with expertise, insights and values that will be applied to the work. The wall is an example of an immoral plan with lack of value, in fact with exceptional detriments.

    Thank you, AIA, for communicating and amplifying the value of the profession of Architect.

    Jodi Smits Anderson

  • 17.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-04-2017 10:35


    If you understood my point, you'd recognize that the core issue you describe is irrelevant to it.

    You say "Defending the profession is the role of the AIA. In order to do that, we first need to define what an "architect" is.

    No. *We* don't. The AIA and every state already have:  "The AIA supports protecting the public by reserving the use of the term 'architect' and its derivative forms to those individuals licensed as architects." Those licensed professions are specifically defined around key practice roles. "Critical thinking" is not one of them. Defining "architect" specifically around professional activity does not by default define it as "a profession limited to creation of prettiness without soul and without functional worth." But redefining "architect" to mean everything *is* to make it mean nothing.

    Moralizing based on platitudes and reactionary opposition to something that hasn't even been designed yet is best left to political parties. If that is the bar for practicing "architecture" our profession would be reduced to advising every client not to build anything lest we damage the environment or offend a neighbor with their immoral imposition on the natural environment.

    Let me try putting this a more positive way.

    The AIA would better serve the entire national Architectural community (and the nation) by lobbying politically to *involve* Architects in this project if our nation's political leaders chose to move forward with it. Such a move would offer an opportunity to extol the virtues of Architects beyond pretty homes, flashy office buildings or ridiculously unrealistic "visionary" proposals. Architects would be shown as vital to that engineering process, for all the wonderful attributes you eloquently identify and support. They could, with their experience, add a critical thinking dimension to the whole process that would otherwise be missing. They may even find that certain sections of wall could be made into a positive thing, or that they could convince the closed-minded that a wall in certain areas may be less effective than some other equally effective barrier that enhances the environment. And it would set an example for countless other such grand engineering projects across the nation from which we as a profession are generally excluded.

    THAT would be the AIA appropriately supporting the profession as it pertains to a border wall.

    Michael Poloukhine AIA
    ReSquare Architecture + Construction
    Los Angeles CA

  • 18.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-08-2017 12:36
    Thank you for grounding me.  I do mean that and not with tongue in cheek.  I understand the AIA has defined what architect means, and perhaps we need to discuss two aspects of this issue in the continued feed.

    1) What is an architect? - as the AIA was founded in 1857 I suggest that the current age (anthropocene era) demands that one aspect of the practice of architects be critical thinking, and that the profession cannot continue in any relevancy without a serious engagement in triple bottom line goal setting and way finding. It is time for us and the AIA to update the definition. In short we need our own "do no harm" principle, and preferably a "fix this mess" mentality..
    Is the role of architect valuable? In short term, it is valuable as it is. If we are to continue as a profession long-term then we must embrace the responsibility of critical thinker, facilitator, charrette leader, team player, community advocate, and environmental advocate, in every project, along with meeting the owner's established goals.
    Perhaps engaging in the project work an architect who has the skills of critical thinking, very early, can lead the involved parties to see that futility and forgo the project, wen indeed that is the case.  I would applaud the AIA promoting the profession in an advisory role as well as in a building science and design/construction methodology position. This would require a separate level of contract along with the value proposition, and would be of tremendous benefit to the world and to our profession.

    2)  Discussion of the wall and other similar projects that demand moral discussion along with an understanding of the value architects can bring to the discourse and end product.
    I hear you that the AIA should promote the business of architecture, and our engagement in the work is a benefit to the profession and to the project. However, I certainly do struggle with knowing that SOME projects should not be undertaken because there is no way to ensure that the benefits outweigh the burdens when factoring in all affected entities. Even if you feel this to be "moralizing" and rife with "platitudes" the writing on the wall of which we speak is that we cannot build any form of this proposed wall without adversely affecting the community, environment AND budget.  Having those three elements all in the negative means the project is too short sighted and dangerous to undertake.


    Jodi Smits Anderson AIA
    Director Sustainability Programs
    Albany NY

  • 19.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-10-2017 12:59


    At risk of accidentally squandering the goodwill I've managed to engender from you I'd have to say I agree with you while disagreeing.

    1) I personally don't think we need to re-define what an Architect is on the grand scale, but don't disagree that we certainly should be open to looking at it regularly to assure its current definitions (state licensing ones, AIA's) are relevant to a rapidly changing world. However, two points to make here, nb on "critical thinking.":

    a) "Critical thinking" cannot be a defining characteristic of what it means to be an Architect. It is a prerequisite, but it is not unique to Architects. Most intellectual fields involve a high level of critical thought and if we define Architects first as "critical thinkers" we essentially define our profession out of existence.

    b) Many of the problems with our profession is an excess of thinking, under the guise of being critical. The bulk of the profession is literally grounded in reality. An Architect's ability to bridge the worlds of real and theoretical in the building field are what make us stand out. Without rationality, reason, tradition and logic/science to ground it "critical thinking" becomes no more useful to a building construction or design than poetry.

    2) Again, two points:

    a) There is nothing innate about a wall that "demands moral considerations" any more than any other construction project. There are moral implications to a guillotine, or a concentration camp. But to a mere wall? Do we fret over the moral implications of a picket fence around a property? Or of a front door? Or the lock upon it? Or the security system inside? That political partisans have done so with this project does not obligate us (as Architects) to accept their artificial attribution. If anything, I'd argue that a commitment to critical thinking obligates us to instead if anything, question the validity of such an arbitrary attribution.

    b) If we are critical thinkers, we ought to apply it with a fairly consistent rigor. Notably, concluding "we cannot build any form of this proposed wall without adversely affecting the community, environment AND budget" without any serious study of that issue seems like, rather, the failure to think critically. It is a political conclusion, not a critical one. Critically thinking about the wall would be to think more along the lines of "It seems it has a lot of negatives. Let's study them to sort that out. Let's parse the idea wall building into sub-categories and see where opportunities exist to mitigate the negatives. If we still see some, let's try deconstructing the very notion of "wall" and then re-apply that to the stated programmatic need and see if there's a solution that avoids the remaining negatives.

    Anything else, is, in my opinion, not Architecture, let alone something to do with the profession of practicing that the AIA is ostensibly (and handsomely) paid by us to do.

    PS: Thanks for engaging thoughtfully on this! Refreshing! :-)

    Michael Poloukhine AIA
    ReSquare Architecture + Construction
    Los Angeles CA

  • 20.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-12-2017 17:01
    This is an interesting discussion. As I understand it, the issue is whether or not architects have an ethical or professional responsibility to refuse to work on certain kinds of projects that are deemed (by those putting forth the argument) to be morally objectionable.

    That topic has been hashed out before, many times, I am sure. In recent history, there was/is a similar argument and an architect-activist movement, the Prison Design Boycott. I looked at their website and I thought that they did a nice job of encapsulating the positive trajectory of this type of effort in the following sentence (no pun intended!): "Originally launched in 2004 as the Prison Design Boycott, ADPSR's Prison Alternatives Initiative calls on architects, other design professionals, and the public to support community-based alternatives to incarceration."

    To my mind, that is the key. Move beyond the theoretical, wordy and ideological arguments and actively engage with the subject at hand. Even when the topic is a morally-repugnant "wall" it is exciting to see how engaged designers can turn the problem on its head and provide an idea that points in a new direction. See The Otra Nation collective of Mexican and American engineers, builders and planners proposal to turn the border "wall" into a shared co-nation (as written up in the Guardian article of April 10th).

    As for the AIA, they are doing their bit by providing the forum for the discussion. They could possibly do more by promoting more public visibility for the engaged critical thinking of their members (and non-member architects/planners).

    James Carr AIA
    James Carr, AIA architecture & design
    Cambridge MA

  • 21.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-16-2017 11:41

    Last one as you are probably all getting tired of me!

    Great point, James. Saying "no" without discovery and discussion is just as bad as saying "yes" without the same care.

    Michael, you have not squandered any good will at all. The discussion has informed me and pushed me to try to separate politics from what I see as a core principle of architecture, to inform the project for greater success. Thank you.

    I see what you are saying about "critical thinking" not being a defining characteristic, but I restate that it must be a characteristic!

    I need to stop talking about the wall – this was the topic that launched the thought I was trying to make, but the wall is just one example of one project that must be informed or perhaps even denied, based on design aspects such as cost, environmental degradations, and potential effects on community.

    Think of a house project instead, intended to be within allowable flood areas, with all the bells and whistles of resiliency including some protections and some wet-flood proofing (recovery) measures. This may be legally fine, but if I was aware of a science-based study that provided additional information calling for a higher level of caution or even indicating that building in this location was foolhardy, I would expand my design inputs to suggest moving uphill, reducing the investment, building with a radical pontoon-based system, or even abandoning the project. If I knew that building on that site would create resiliency issues for the community or the neighbor slightly downstream, I would speak up. I guess that it what I am trying to portray as the valuable "critical thinking" skill we need to apply.

    I have been told that architects should design what the owner says they want. But I know our value comes in helping the owners identify not only what they want, but what they need, what safety allows, what the environment can handle, and what is possible.

    This may still sound theoretical or visionary, yet I cannot bring myself to accept that architects are mere suppliers.

    Jodi Smits Anderson AIA
    Director Sustainability Programs
    Albany NY

  • 22.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-04-2017 11:03

    I have two questions for COTE:


    1. At the AIA National Convention, I could not find one solar power vendor, graywater vendor, etc.  Is COTE involved in convention beyond speakers?  Where did these vendors go?
    2. COTE seems to have created its own advocacy group – why is that? And why isn't COTE working with advocacy for its message, or when we receive something from COTE advocacy is that the same as receiving something from advocacy?



    M A R K  G A N G I,  AIA, LEED AP

    GANGI   architects

    229 E Palm Ave Burbank CA 91502

    t 818. 845. 3170 ext 106  f  818. 247. 7259




  • 23.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-08-2017 12:34
    Hi Mark: great questions. Here are some initial responses:
    1. on the expo hall - we expect that AIA doesn't turn anyone away from these (it's managed by a third party vendor) but you make an excellent point. It turns out that there was a "sustainability pavilion" in the expo hall this year. In truth, all of the expo should be sustainable. One of our COTE Advisory Group members suggests that we promote a "COTE pavilion" next year which focuses on products that contribute to the Top Ten winning projects. Sounds like a great idea worth pursuing.
    2. On the role of COTE's Advocacy priorities vis a vis AIA national: we are working closely with the AIA Federal advocacy team to focus on priority actions where COTE's members and other like-minded designers can make a significant difference. Right now our priority is on making sure that the EPA and DOE budget changes don't impact the many important programs and resources that we all need to be effective in our work. We're making headway - the EPA letter with 775 firm signatures is being shared with the relevant Capitol Hill committees with meetings being lined up. Plus Robert Ivy has a meeting set with Scott Pruitt to make our case (this is something that AIA is uniquely positioned to do because of our recognized role as the voice of the architect.) It would be terrific if you and others could attend next Tuesday's May 9 2PM ET webinar where COTE advocacy and AIA federal advocacy staff will share more about the strategy and answer questions.
    Registration for that is here:
    Gotowebinar remove preview
    View this on Gotowebinar >

    Mary Ann Lazarus FAIA
    MALeco, LLC
    2017 COTE Advisory Group Chair
    Saint Louis MO

  • 24.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-09-2017 16:59
    Responding to Jodi and others with a similar viewpoint about the AIA's role in politics,

    Much of what Jodi says is beautifully convincing prose, stating "architects are trained critical thinkers", "fascilitators in communication", "to achieve excellent buildings", "includes the environment", etc.  Then at the end she makes her stand, "The wall is an example of an immoral plan with lack of value, in fact with exceptional detriments."  Now, that seems less an architectural statement and more of a political belief, policy, or world view.  But, because she is an architect who dislikes the proposed wall, an immoral plan as she calls it, she then jumps to the conclusion that all architects must be against it.  And that the AIA must speak out.  Herein lies the flaw.  Some of us would like to have a sovereign nation.  Even some of us architects.  Some of us might go so far as to actually support some limitations and careful screening of who is coming into the country.  Some of us might even - oh no - support a "wall" or other barrier that makes it less likely that uninvited people are entering the country.  Thus, I would not appreciate the AIA taking a stand against the wall.

    I don't look to the AIA to be an outspoken voice in favor of my political opinions.  Many of you are probably glad the AIA isn't confusing my political beliefs with its core responsibility of supporting the architectural profession.  Now, everyone of you who just agreed with that statement, reverse the roles and for just a moment see how many of us feel every time the AIA jumps into some political discourse with its usual left-wing liberal viewpoint.  Think about how disjointed the AIA and architects have become, as illustrated by the backlash when the AIA released an innocuous statement supporting more federal money for infrastructure.  Suddenly, to support infrastructure was pro-Trump and us architects couldn't have that!

    And for all of you who have just lumped me into that "basket of deplorables" who support Trump.  I don't like Trump.  He has some views I agree with and just as many that I don't.  I find myself pulling for him largely because all of the media is against him.  News outlets are reporting that in the first 3 months of his presidency 89% of all news about Trump has been negative.  How objective is that?

    Robert Smith AIA
    Architect, AIA, LEED AP


  • 25.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-12-2017 17:01

    I do separate politics from this discussion. That's why I split the discussion into two aspects.  Regarding the first, apolitical intent to understand what an "architect" is:  My interest lies in recognizing our impact and responsibility regarding resources, health of communities, climate change, and budget management, and encouraging the AIA to support our value in that work.


    I think this is where we have different perspectives, as I do not associate environmental, risk awareness/avoidance, health/safety of building users, or inclusion of our well-informed inputs into budget controls as political.




    Jodi Smits Anderson, AIA, LEED-AP BD+C

    Director Sustainability Programs


    DASNY | We Finance, Build and Deliver.

    515 Broadway, Albany, NY, 12207


    (518) 257-3486 |


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  • 26.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-15-2017 12:25

    Yes, but providing "inputs" on those topics ought to be professionally oriented.

    "Well informed" professional advice hardly includes offering moral judgements of a client's construction project. That's not Architecture, it's more like theology.

    An Architect, as a person, is nothing without such moral perspectives, and those moral perspectives will rightly drive the Architect's personal perspective on the professional services they provide and how they do so. But that doesn't mean the moral judgements themselves are or should be Architectural services, nor that an organization like the AIA ought to take policy positions on a moral position as so many are here arguing.

    I'll put it another way (and only somewhat tongue in cheek): if offering moral opinions of a project's aspects is an Architectural service, at which phase is it provided? Is it a Core Service? Pre-design? Post-occupancy? Seems mostly like feasibility stage.

    Michael Poloukhine AIA
    ReSquare Architecture + Construction
    Los Angeles CA

  • 27.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-17-2017 17:43

    This has been a stimulating discussion, and very valuable. My opinion is that COTE should be a place where ecosystem, human community, and economic impacts of any proposed project are freely discussed: we are, after all, about the "Environment" in a very broad sense, and how the profession can contribute to positive impacts. Personally, I think Ed Mazria and others have made very strong arguments as to why the proposed border wall is just a plain bad idea all around, but I also recognize that the AIA membership doesn't uniformly agree. So perhaps we shouldn't ask AIA to take a public position on "The Wall", but continue to discuss it (and other impactful policies) here. We can follow our own ethical standards in our practice, and affect political decisions through organizations (like NRDC, for example) to which "The Wall" is unambiguously offensive.


    That said, I am completely comfortable with AIA and COTE efforts to publicly advocate for the preservation the science and basic research coming out of the EPA and DOE: information that is useful for finding design strategies are effective in saving energy and support health and welfare.


    Steven E. Blais, AIA, LEED AP BD+C



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  • 28.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-19-2017 12:52
    Core service as it is not moral. There are budget, safety, health, resource, resilience and other success aspects that must be included in all design work.

    Jodi Smits Anderson

  • 29.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-19-2017 10:37
    Jodi. For you to say you do separate politics from the discussion doesn't seem to match what was in your original post.  You referred to the wall as immoral.  I find it hard to believe that any United States citizen doesn't see the need to control immigration, and the need to stop illegal immigration.  Yet, I realize there are other viewpoints.  To me, these viewpoints will differ largely based on political, policy and world viewpoints.  If someone believes in a no borders' world, then a wall is bad.  If someone believes in sovereign nations, then a wall is good.

    You referred to the wall as immoral.  If you had stated that a wall is a bad idea because of its environmental implications, such as migration of wildlife across the border, that would not seem political.  That would lead the way for architects to apply critical thinking and find solutions.  Surely, a wall can be designed with gates or openings that allow the wildlife along the border to come and go.  This may require sections of the border with electronic surveillance or manned outposts, etc.  But instead of voicing specific concerns, you took a clear stance against the concept of a wall or barrier along the border.  In today's world, unless clearly explained otherwise, that is a political position or will at least be perceived as a political position.

    And for the record, there is nothing wrong with having differing political positions and expressing them in an open forum.  Debate and dialogue is a good thing.  But, just because you or I hold a particular position doesn't justify having the AIA mobilize behind it, unless it is an issue of importance and impact upon our profession.  Otherwise, the AIA isn't really representing architects.  Instead it becomes more like the NEA which claims to represent teachers, but in reality it only represents teachers that are Democrats.

    Robert Smith AIA
    Architect, AIA, LEED AP
    Talley & Smith Architecture, Inc.
    Shelby NC

  • 30.  RE: The Wall vs AIA

    Posted 05-26-2017 10:52

    I used the wall as an example, as that was where the conversation began.  As that subject is too political, I tried to split my comments into two parts. One of a personal perspective on the wall project, and a second topic on the role of architect.  Let's see if we can make that separation stick this time.

    My perspective on the role of architect includes the certainty that our value as a profession is clear when we bring knowledge to the table on all the aspects of the work, including budget information, materials management, health of building occupants, affect on community, integration of the project with the site and larger environmental systems, etc. This should be our core service. Of necessity this will include aspects of resiliency, sustainability, and awareness in issues of climate change and social/environmental justice.

    My understanding of the role of architect is confirmed by the AIA through messaging such as this recent advertisement.  How can we "better" our work without a comprehensive approach to that work? The answer is that we cannot.

    Jodi Smits Anderson AIA
    Director Sustainability Programs
    Albany NY