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Human Rights & Professional Ethics

Ending Design for Torture and Killing

Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) is asking the American Institute of Architects to amend its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to prohibit the design of spaces for killing, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the United States, this comprises the design of execution chambers and super-maximum security prisons (“supermax”), where solitary confinement is an intolerable form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. As people of conscience and as a profession dedicated to improving the built environment for all people, we cannot participate in the design of spaces that violate human life and dignity. Participating in the development of buildings designed for killing, torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading is fundamentally incompatible with professional practice that respects standards of decency and human rights. AIA has the opportunity to lead our profession in upholding human rights.


In 2011, United Nations bodies determined that long-term solitary isolation is a form of torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment prohibited by international law, and made special reference to the United States use of supermax prisons as a violation. In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the "Nelson Mandela" Revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which further clarify that prolonged solitary confinement is unacceptable. All international human rights bodies have also long included abolition of the death penalty as a necessary ultimate step in realizing human rights. AIA‘s code of ethics already includes the statement “Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors,” but this standard is unenforceable without reference to international human rights standards. Adding enforceable language to the AIA Code can help redress the problems caused by buildings that embody human rights violations.

You can find ADPSR's latest letter encouraging AIA to stand for human rights here.

ADPSR's detailed case to AIA's 2014 working group is here.

Please join ADPSR’s petition to the AIA by signing here.

Join our Facebook group to stay informed of progress towards reform here.

Tweet here

  Download a one-page fact sheet about the proposal here


Learn more about the issues:

-          Human Rights

-          Supermax Prisons

-          Execution Chambers

-          Race and Punishment

-          Ethics Code Amendment

-          Ethics FAQs

-          Links & Resources