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June 1, 2020
by AIA New York and the Center for Architecture

The events of the past week and the injustices that these events are forcing us to confront have been heartbreaking and overwhelming. On May 25, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, MN. His name was added to a long list of victims of unjust violence towards black communities and other communities of color in America. This is nothing new, we have crossed this ground before in our history. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report warned that, “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, and one white—separate and unequal.” The burden of this pain and suffering, while not felt equally, must fall on all of us.

AIA New York and the Center for Architecture, as two organizations dedicated to furthering the practice of architecture to the highest of standards, place design excellence at the very core of our mission. In the most fundamental sense, we rely on our built environment to provide spaces for shelter, for employment, for governance, for entertainment, and for public gathering—including, when necessary, spaces for protest. Architecture and architects have a vital role in healing injustice, and we must hold ourselves accountable.

The current COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic fallout have only served to underscore the existing structures of racial inequality in our society. While we have all been experiencing this crisis, we are not all impacted equally. Black people and people of color have felt health and economic impacts most acutely, including within the architecture profession. This glaring inequality serves as a call to action, and our organizations feel this at the deepest level.

Now is the time to have more difficult conversations about what our community and profession can do to make change, and to work for justice and fair access to opportunity and wellbeing. An architect offers society specific skills that are not accessible to everyone and is often in a position of privilege; thus it falls on our community to put our hard-won problem-solving skills to work in the struggle for a more just and equitable society. This cannot be done if our profession continues to fail to reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.

AIA New York and the Center for Architecture are committed to offering our members and our community a platform for joint problem solving. We will commit to reminding ourselves, and encouraging you, to listen to our peers of color, starting with this statement on racial injustice by the National Organization of Minority Architects.

While we seek to amplify the voices of people of color in our profession, the burden of seeking solutions falls on us all. We invite architects and architecture firms to share with one another the ways in which they are working to dismantle inequality in their practices and in their work, and we look forward to creating opportunities for this shared action.

And most immediately, we ask members of our community to use their voices to support justice, to engage in active listening, to ensure they are registered to vote, and to consider how they as individuals and we as a community can meaningfully create a more just and equitable city, nation, and world.

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