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Op-ed: Architects survived the Trump years by adopting critical, activist viewpoints; they shouldn’t abandon them now.

After the Trump election, architects suddenly found their activist voices and began speaking out; now that he’s gone, will they do the same?

The Architecture Lobby, a pressure group aiming to change the working conditions of architects, emerged from the Trump years with a higher profile. (The Architecture Lobby)
The Architecture Lobby, a pressure group aiming to change the working conditions of architects, emerged from the Trump years with a higher profile. (The Architecture Lobby)

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The day after Donald Trump was elected president, I made my way, still massively hungover and dressed half in pajamas, from my apartment in the Copycat Building in North Baltimore to the Peabody Conservatory, where I went to graduate school. The administration wanted to talk about things, and so frightened, despondent students crowded into a small but high-ceilinged meeting room in a campus annex. I sat in the back among dozens of others who spoke in frightened voices about violence and deportation and all manner of horrible things that seemed, with the election of this one man, imminent. All the administrators at the front of the room could do was be there for us, assure us that everything would be all right. I felt instead like I was in some kind of bizarre movie where the suits to whom I was indebted to the tune of $40,000 promised to be stalwarts in the fight against nascent fascism. I left early and skipped class afterward.

Only after Joe Biden was finally granted office four years later, following a long, drawn-out process, did I recall how surreal those early days of Trump had been, how everyone suddenly and all at once decided that it was the time to do something because bad things were happening.

Architecture was no exception—except for, well, the AIA. On November 9, 2016, the American Institute of Architects released a now-infamous statement that effectively pledged its 89,000-strong membership “to working with President-elect Trump to address the issues our country faces, particularly strengthening the nation’s aging infrastructure.… This has been a hard-fought, contentious election process. It is now time for all of us to work together to advance policies that help our country move forward.”

The backlash was immediate, with #NotMyAIA leading the charge on architecture Twitter. The AIA’s statement wasn’t just tone-deaf but borderline insipid, considering the sheer frenzy and grief and gravitas of the moment, and the organization was quick to elaborate that it would “continue to be at the table and be a voice for the profession, especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” (This is very funny when one considers the statistics of exactly who is and is not an architect in America.)

However, Trump’s election and these subsequent AIA blunders made thousands of architects consider that, if their professional organization was willing to work with a despotic racist at what seemed like the end of the world, then perhaps they didn’t want to be associated with said professional organization—or even said profession itself. For the first time, many people in architecture awakened to the reality that their jobs were, in fact, highly political and, now, thanks to the AIA, had been explicitly politicized (albeit without their consent).

Read on >>>> Source: ArchPaper Op-ed: Architects survived the Trump years by adopting critical, activist viewpoints; they shouldn’t abandon them now.

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