A Call to Action from AIA Pennsylvania Leadership
Dear Valued AIA Pennsylvania Member,
Just like you, I watched the murder of George Floyd and have replayed that horrific and unjustifiable eight minutes and forty-six seconds in my mind. Over the past week, we have seen universal condemnation not only of Mr. Floyd’s treatment and murder but those of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. Worse is that there is seemingly no incident if there is no camera. These incidents reveal a structural inequity baked into our country since its founding, and this pattern shows us how unwell we are.
The chasm of health and means between races makes American racism a viable global outrage. Like many of you, I have had the luxury of believing that daily acts of racism were a remnant of the past. I cannot understand the hurdles, stereotypes, or added worry that men, women, and families in the black community experience daily, but I know that our profession has an opportunity to become part of a solution rather than a spectator. Architecture, like other professions, has played a role in institutionalized racism. Even as recently as a few decades ago, it was illegal to offer mortgages offered to whites to African American families in the United States. If we want to be part of the solution, we must be aware that the status quo can blind us to our biases, and it is incumbent upon us to speak out against policies, laws, and individuals that maintain this unwell system.
Architecture deals not only with spaces and buildings but the public realm, which in turn comprises economic and social structures that must be continually evaluated and redesigned. Architects are integrators, who must seek out the voices of all project stakeholders in order to conceive of project successes where everyone benefits. We are humanists who seek triple bottom line success in projects that are good for people and the environment. Our work as architects needs to consider where racial injustice meets the built environment, such as with housing policy, the availability of mass transit, education policy, the quality of open space, and the expectation of humane spaces.
AIA Pennsylvania denounces the systemic racism that exists in society. In our mandate of supporting health, safety, and welfare, AIA Pennsylvania stands on the principles of diversity, inclusion, and equity. We are pleased and proud that this profession is made up of passionate talent seeking justice and change. We do not want to make a statement that is quickly forgotten. Actions always speak louder than words and we see this doubling down on our values as a marathon, not a sprint.
To that end, the AIA Pennsylvania team, leadership, and Board of Directors have outlined the following first steps specifically in order to do something. This list is not comprehensive, nor are the points finite, but this meant to be a starting point as we move forward in collaboration. We intend to flesh out these intentions in coordination with our nascent AIA Pennsylvania 2020 – 2025 Strategic Plan, which includes the principle of designing for equitable communities and holds equity, diversity, and inclusiveness as essential values.
AIA Pennsylvania Inclusivity Intention Statement
We intend to start work on the following initiatives:
- Share NOMA’s (National Organization of Minority Architects) messages and initiatives starting with their statement on racial injustice.
- Strengthen our relationship with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion, and Small Business Opportunities.
- Spread industry resources, news, and insight that celebrate equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession.
- Feature minority AIA Pennsylvania members – their voice, their work, their firms, and their accomplishments professionally and in their communities.
- Look at ways our developing Strategic Council can help underserved communities by partnering with residents and providing services where and when we are able.
- Create and contribute to programs that encourage minorities to become architects.
- Work to advocate for positive, measurable change in the triple bottom line of social equity, environmental benefit, as well as project profitability in all of our projects.
- Educate ourselves and our fellow professionals on the impact of structural racism and how privilege and power influence our work, our education and training, and our professional relationships.
- Regard investment in underserved communities as valuable in offering a triple bottom line return over a certain period of time.
- Design for equity and inclusion as a root value for any project and regard investment in underserved communities as a triple bottom line investment over time.
- Advocate for design with the Framework for Design Excellence, particularly Measure 2 Design for Equitable Communities.
- Create an online repository of resources to assist members and the public in the continual and further understanding of these concepts.
Leaders of other AIA Pennsylvania Committees have already reached out and have begun discussing more ways to help and do what they can to be a part of a solution. Likewise, we urge all members to send us your thoughts and ideas (by way of Stephen Swarney, Executive Director at [email protected]) regarding what we can do as an organization and profession so that this Inclusivity Intention Statement can become an action plan to help us all achieve better and more sustainable diversity, inclusivity and equity in our organization, our communities and our profession.
Marc Mondor, AIA, LEED Fellow
President, AIA Pennsylvania