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ADPSR News

Open Letter to AIA National following the 2016 presidential election

December 6, 2016 

Dear AIA National,

Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) is an independent non-profit organization established in 1981 with the mission of promoting peace, environmental protection, ecological building, social justice, and the development of healthy communities. We are a past winner of the AIA Collaborative Achievement Award and a recognized voice for human rights in architecture.

We were dismayed at AIA’s initial statement after the election of Mr. Trump to the U.S. Presidency. WE attended the AIASF listening session – and have joined in many online discussions in response to the statement. We believe that in addition to the apologies that CEO Ivy and President Davidson have offered, AIA should take action to demonstrate the values foregrounded in the apology statements. Specifically, we recommend:

1. Human Rights. We have a president-elect who is on record in favor of torture. Architects must not abet human rights violations or be suborned into projects counter to health, safety and welfare. AIA National should Adopt ADPSR's proposed Ethics Code Rule to prohibit the design of spaces that will violate human rights and clarify the limits of acceptable practice to professionals and the public. (http://adpsr.org/home/ethics_reform)

2. Discrimination and Harassment. We have emerged from a campaign that vilified muslims, people of color, women LGTB people and other minorities, and actively scapegoated undocumented immigrants in this country. AIA and our professions deeply value diversity and inclusion, but our values are under threat: everyone from firm owners to junior designers may be subject to increased discrimination, harassment, and even threats of deportation. AIA should foreground our values by providing a centralized source of legal advice and support for members and professionals facing deportation, discrimination, or harassment whether as employers, employees, or in other roles, for instance by partnering with organizations such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (www.aila.org) to develop know-your-rights fact sheets, a hotline phone number, and other resources.

3. Sustainability. The majority party of both houses of Congress, the President, and a majority of state Governments refuse to recognize the reality of human-caused climate change, making the prospect for government leadership on sustainability poor even as climate change accelerates and the window to respond to it shrinks. AIA should continue to educate members and the profession about design strategies needed for sustainability, to lobby on behalf of sustainability, and to support stronger energy and green building codes. As a further demonstration of AIA's commitment, AIA should require a minimum level of energy performance for all AIA design awards; the public and the profession will lose faith in AIA if it celebrates buildings that make the climate crisis worse rather than better.

Thank you for your consideration,



Join US Veterans in active support of Standing Rock

November, 30, 2016 - Over 1000 veterans are expected to ‘deploy’ to South Dakota on Dec. 4th to support the water protectors at Standing Rock. This comes at a critical time for our country, and in the ongoing resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. As ADPSR made clear in demanding AIA adopt a human rights Ethics Rule, and the AIA acknowledged, these times demand we are explicit in demarcating what is and is not acceptable in our treatment of each other. The same is true in relation to our treatment of the natural world. If we stand on the sidelines, if we act as if business as usual can continue without this focused attention and action, we are complicit with injustice. These veterans are showing all professionals what solidarity means.

There are many ways to act. ADPSR includes a short list of timely actions below.

If you have not been following the #NoDAPL struggle at Standing Rock this brief timeline goes up to November 20th when protectors were blasted by police with water cannons and rubber bullets in subzero temperatures. On November 26th the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified the Standing Rock Protectors that on Dec 5th the Corps would close contested treaty lands on which Oceti Sakowin camp is located. The Corps urged the protectors to move to a “free speech zone” south of the Cannonball river. In a 11/26 statement and in a11/27 press conference, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman David Archambault II and other leaders made it clear that they would not move and would continue their nonviolent action against the pipeline.

The water protectors are asking for support to get the Corps and Obama administration to deny the easement to cross the Missouri River and stop the Dakota Access Pipeline now. It is also time to jam the phones with demands to stop the militarized police response to peaceful protestors.

Timely Actions

1.Sign the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s petition to Obama and the ACLU petition to the DOJ

2.Call or email the DOJ’s “peacemaker”, the Community Relations Service. Request mediation between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, The Army Corps of Engineers & the Morton County police. Frame the excessive use of force against the water protectors as a racial conflict in need of their attention. Email: Askcrs@usdoj.gov or call Federal office: (202) 305-2935, or regional office: (303) 844-2973

3.Take further action as suggested by Sacred Stone Camp such as joining a local solidarity action or calling Sherriff departments to withdraw from Standing Rock.

4.Email nodapl@adpsr.org if interested in working with a small group on industry-specific solidarity efforts.

"If the true concern is for public safety than the Governor should clear the blockade and the county law enforcement should cease all use of flash grenades, high-pressure water cannons in freezing temperatures, dog kennels for temporary human jails, and any harmful weaponry against human beings." -Chairman Archambault II


ADPSR Demands Human Rights action in response to AIA Embrace of Trump Administration


November, 14, 2016 - AIA must stand for the wellbeing of the architectural profession, but AIA’s uncritical embrace of the incoming Trump administration calls that into question. Local economies throughout much of the country need revitalization, but we do not believe that kissing up to a litigious billionaire will benefit the majority of architects and designers. A thriving profession requires a country of greater equality and shared prosperity, while deregulation threatens our our ability to deliver quality work and even our professional standing. Trump’s promises to end longstanding environmental protections when a higher standard of care is called for will make the buildings we deliver complicit in abusing our children and grandchildren for the sake of short-term gain. Above all, economic sustainability demands renewed respect for the earth and for all the people of the communities we live in and serve. AIA must immediately commit to protecting human rights as the Trump administration prepares to assume power.


It is not only our nation’s physical infrastructure that needs rebuilding, but after this divisive political campaign our social and political infrastructure needs restoration as well. Our profession has an essential role to play, not only through executing the building projects our country needs – schools, affordable housing, and everything that can reduce our carbon footprint to sustainable levels – but also in demonstrating civil, public-spirited, and inclusive leadership. AIA’s statement of partnership with the incoming administration somehow ignored that the President-elect, as a candidate, focused much of his campaign on threatening the dignity and human rights of women, Muslims, Latin@s, LGBT people, and others around the world, or that his victory once against frustrated the will of the American people through the mechanism of the antiquated electoral college. AIA’s uncritical statement of support for the next administration has been deeply unsettling to many architects, to say the least; AIA must immediately reassure its members and a nervous public that architects will respect human rights, protect our democratic values, and contribute to community economic development as a foundation of our work.

We demand that AIA immediately adopt a human rights Ethics Rule to prohibit member participation in projects intended to violate human rights, because we are deeply concerned that the Trump administration may attempt to suborn members into ethically unacceptable projects, and because members and the public deserve proof of good will after AIA’s tone-deaf promise of support for a threatening administration. This will also help to reassert our profession’s independence in civil society and our value to our local communities. With Mr. Trump’s authoritarian tone and his personal history of flouting the law (even refusing to pay AIA members for past work), we must also be cautious of threats to our democracy, and a renewed human rights commitment will do what our profession can to inoculate U.S. civil society more broadly against future abuse. Our profession can achieve great things, and we can work with a Trump administration, but we can only do so on our terms, rather than on his, as a profession devoted to design for the public good.



ADPSR stands with Standing Rock, and calls on all designers to join us

November, 2016 - As caring people and design professionals, we are outraged to see peaceful acts of resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) met with escalating police brutality. The growing movement at Standing Rock puts the spotlight on both a planning process gone wrong and deeper societal design flaws starting with the genocide of indigenous peoples at the founding of this nation. As a nation, we need to hear and heed the voices of the Water Protectors, instead of yet again threatening first amendment and basic human rights in service to development interests. We urge fellow designers to add your name to this petition calling on President Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and then take additional steps in active solidarity.


Image liscenced for noncommercial reuse - used by inhabitat.com

What Standing Rock highlights is that we cannot effectively right these problems via voluntary measures by professionals. We need systemic change, and, given entrenched interests, we won’t get that change without people on the ground engaging in active civil disobedience. At a time that the planning and design industry is championing an integrated design approach, the Standing Rock struggle is highlighting a massive failure of social integration in planning procedures and natural resource policies. Active solidarity, that supports this native-led struggle without subsuming it, is a good place to start designing our way to a responsible, responsive, resilient society.

...read more on our blog




ADPSR Thanks AIA for Reconsidering Human Rights

February, 2016 - AIA has informed ADPSR that the AIA National Ethics Council will (re)consider our proposal to prohibit the design of execution chambers and spaces intended for torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. This is big progress from 2014, when AIA rejected ADPSR's proposal, but a new turn for the National Ethics Council, which had never considered the proposal before. We salute AIA's 2015 and 2016 Presidents for taking another look at this vitally important issue. Since AIA's rejection, two more medical professional associations -- this time, of pharmacists -- have told their members not to participate in executions, and the United Nations has adopted new human rights rules for the treatment of prisoners specifically barring the kind of solitary confinement routinely practiced across the United States. ADPSR explained these and other trends in a letter encouraging AIA to consider last year.

Please JOIN US in thanking AIA for their reconsideration and encouraging them to take a strong stand for human rights!



2015 ADPSR Lewis Mumford Awards

Three organizations were honored on September 18th in Seattle, with Architects Designers Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) 2015 Lewis Mumford Award in the categories of Peace, Environment, and Development. The ADPSR Lewis Mumford Awards are presented to individuals and organizations nationally on an annual basis in recognition of their innovative and influential work. The winners of the 2015 (21st annual) Lewis Mumford Awards embody ADPSR’s mission to promote world peace, environmental protection, and socially responsible development. This year's awardees: 

Peace --  Black Lives Matter 

• Environment -- Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition 

• Development -- Environmental Works Community Design Center 

The award ceremony took place during Seattle Design Fest: Design for Equity at the Bullitt Center, 1501 East Madison Street, Seattle, on Friday, September 18th.



Raphael Sperry speaks September 19th, 2015, on panel Questioning Youth Incarceration

ADPSR President Raphael Sperry spoke at the Seattle Design Festival conference Saturday Sept. 19 on the panel "Questioning Youth Incarceration." http://seattledesignfestival2015.sched.org/tag/Con... We hope to get people to ask bigger questions about seemingly "normal" institutions in our society. Is designing prisons, youth jails, and detention centers inevitable? Who designs these spaces, and who is affected by the existence and harms of these spaces? What does a community movement to resist incarceration and caging look like? FEATURING: • Angelica Chazaro: Law professor, University of Washington School of Law; • Nikkita Oliver: poet, spoken word artist, organizer, pugilist, teacher, and law student; • Sensei Gregory C. Lewis, producer/host of All Power To The Positive! and local founder of Black Lives Matter, Seattle; • Raphael Sperry: Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility.



Saturday, May 2- Jane's Walk: Upper West Side Urban Renewal: Blight or Right in the Sight of Jane?

Walk co-leader Jim Wunsch shares his knowledge of the area's history and its many changes over time.

Every year during the first weekend in May, people all over the world participate in Jane's Walks to get to know their neighborhoods and celebrate the life and work of urbanist/activist Jane Jacobs. 

In 2015, ADPSR's New Village Press hosted a walk in Manhattan's Upper West Side to explore the area's history of urban renewal, particularly in relationship to low and moderate income housing, mixed-use development, and neighborhood vitality. With over 40 participants, many of whom contributed their own stories and experiences along the way, the walk was a huge success! In the weeks that followed, New Village Press continued the conversation digitally with photos, videos, and walker responses. To join the conversation, head to WhatWeSee.org!


Media Responds to Ethics Campaign

February 16, 2015 — Michael Kimmelman, chief architecture critic of the New York Times covers AIA's rejection of ADPSR's proposal to amend the AIA Code of Ethics in his article, "Prison Architecture and the Question of Ethics."

Other Recent Media Response


AIA says No to Human Rights

December 11, 2014 — AIA has rejected ADPSR's proposal to amend their Code of Ethics to prohibit the design of spaces intended for human rights violations, including execution and prolonged solitary confinement. We are deeply saddened and shocked that a professional association that claims to maintain the highest standards of ethics would permit members to participate in torture and killing. Read AIA's letter (with ADPSR's annotations) here. An un-annotated version is available here. ADPSR President Raphael Sperry's Op-Ed in response can be found here. ADPSR's media alert and response can be found here.