The leaders of several prominent architecture, design, and construction organizations have released statements unequivocally denouncing the violent January 6 melee in Washington, D.C. that, as of this writing, has claimed the lives of six people including Brian Sicknick, a member of the Capitol Police, and Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force Veteran and QAnon adherent who was shot by officers while attempting to breach the House Chamber.
The horrific events at the Capitol complex, an attempt to halt the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election won by Joe Biden and potentially harm or kill various politicians including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, has drawn widespread denouncement from a wide swath of private industry and professional organizations.
In a joint statement, Robert Ivy, chief executive of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Peter Exley, the newly instated president of the AIA, referred to the riots at the Capitol as an “appalling act of entitlement and weakness” and noted that the “insurgents, their supports, and instigators do not understand what makes our country strong and enduring: respect for differences, reasoned discourse, and, above all, the belief that America’s best days are ahead.”
Continued the statement, which can be read in full here:
“But the United States Capitol is also a reminder of the nation’s original sins: The dislocation of native peoples and the enslavement of Africans. It sits on the ancestral land of the Nacotchtank, Piscataway and Pamunkey peoples. And the building was created with the extensive use of the labor and skill of enslaved Africans. That melding of noble aspirations and profound failings is foundational to the American experiment.
We are not a perfect union, yet we continue to strive to be the more perfect union envisioned 233 years ago. That relentless centuries-long pursuit is what inspires millions around the world and gives us hope.
In the spirit of hope, in a few days we will celebrate the life and exceptional contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King dedicated his life to bending the historical arc of our nation closer toward universal justice.
It is also fitting that we will witness the transition of power that symbolizes the collective responsibility of “we the people” to work together toward a future that is fairer, healthier, and more sustainable for everyone, everywhere.
Both are well-timed reminders of what is best about our nation.
In the coming days, as we begin a new chapter in America’s history, we should all remember that what unites us – the belief that we are created equal and have a responsibility to leave our society better than we found it – is far more important and enduring than suspicion and division.
As architects, we are committed to those ideals.”
While the statement is a resolute one, some online commentators have pointed out the fact that the AIA, although overtly nonpartisan, does partake in political lobbying activities that financially benefit both Democrat and Republican candidates.*
While this isn’t abnormal in the least, what is noteworthy is the AIA’s past financial support of pro-Trump politicians who went on to vote in favor of overturning the results of a free and fair election. In 2019-2020, the American Institute of Architects through its political action committee, ArchiPAC, contributed a total of $231,500 to federal candidates with the percentage of monies going to Republican contributions slightly outweighing Democrat contributions at 52.5 percent ($121,500) versus 47.5 percent ($110,000). In the Senate, that includes Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, who received $1,000 and voted to oppose the election certification. (Other Republican senators that received contributions during this period include Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Tim Scott of North Carolina, Roy Blunt of Missouri, former Georgia senator Doug Collins, and outgoing Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. None of these senators were among the seven who voted to overturn the election alongside Hyde-Smith.) In the House, ArchiPAC contributed funds to numerous Republican candidates who later supported overturning the results of the election including Kevin Brady of Texas ($5,000), Buddy Carter of Georgia ($8,500), and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina ($5,000).
These contributions–while again, not eyebrow-raising for a nonpartisan professional organization with an active lobbying arm—have prompted practitioners such as Bryan C. Lee Jr. of New Orleans-based Colloqate Design to urge the AIA to immediately cease all funding to the Republican Party.
If the AIA were to put the brakes on political contributions, it wouldn’t be alone. Numerous banks, organizations, and major corporations ranging from Marriott to CitiGroup to BlueCross BlueShield have vowed to put a pause on or halt political contributions following the attempted insurrection, some to all politicians for the time being, and some specific to the 147 members of Congress who egged on and aided the unruly mob.
Other leaders speak out
In addition to the AIA statement from Ivy and Exley, leaders of other AEC-related organizations have released missives decrying the January 6 insurrection in Washington. This includes Torey Carter-Conneen, CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), who wrote in a statement: “The ASLA condemns this violent insurrection by a riotous mob and the death and destruction it caused. We applaud Congress for getting back to the business of the people despite the distressing turn of events.”
Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit North America’s Building Trades Union (NABTU) went a step further in its quick-out-of-the-gates January 6 statement that calls not only Trump to immediately resign but for Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to step down alongside the other 145 members of the Senate and House who objected to the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
“If these actions are not taken immediately, in anticipation of what is already one of the worst domestic episodes in our country’s history, things could get much worse over the next 14 days very quickly,” concluded the NABTU statement. “Thus, we urge all law-abiding Americans to stand up and demand the same to protect our precious democracy from tyrants and thugs.”
AN will note and include excerpts of additional statements as we become aware of them.
* UPDATE 1/13/21: Following the second impeachment of Donald Trump, AIA released a statement announcing that ArchiPAC has “paused all PAC activities and contributions indefinitely, pending further review of the political situation and to enable the development of protocols to address this and future events aimed at undermining American voters. AIA is taking these steps as a direct result of the inflamed rhetoric and violence that preceded last week’s Congressional vote to certify the election of President-Elect Joe Biden.” The full statement can be read here.