Anatomy of a Resignation

Architect Fritz Read resigns from AIA over its pledge to work with President-Elect Trump

National Newsletter Professional Practice
Fritz Read. (Courtesy Fritz Read)
Fritz Read. (Courtesy Fritz Read)

A Maryland-based architect took the ultimate step to show his disagreement with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) over its November 9 statement (see that statement here) about working with President-elect Donald Trump: He has resigned from the organization.

Frederick “Fritz” Read, the founder and principal of Read & Company Architects in Baltimore, Maryland, submitted his resignation last Thursday, after reading a statement from AIA Executive Vice President and CEO Robert Ivy about the outcome of the national election.

“The alacrity with which Robert Ivy hopped out there to promise the President-Elect that the AIA will play nice with his administration, without even a pro forma caution that what Mr. Trump has promised and threatened are deeply antithetical to the values that many of us cherish, is the final straw for me, the last bit of evidence I needed, that our only serious interest as an organization has become a craven interest in securing our piece of the action,” Read wrote to leaders of the Baltimore AIA chapter. “The AIA does not represent my personal or professional interests. Please consider this my resignation from the AIA, effective immediately, and remove both my name and that of my firm from your membership records. I am appalled.”

Read sent a subsequent message to Ivy, calling for him to resign as well, “to allow the AIA to be represented instead by someone who might more fully and thoughtfully engage the incoming administration on the basis of the AIA’s clearly stated shared values.”

Although Read is one of many architects around the nation who expressed concern that the AIA would presume to speak for them that way Ivy did in his statement. Many have been quoted by The Architect’s Newspaper or expressed their feelings on social media platforms. (See Robert Ivy’s second apology to AIA architects here.) Read is one of the first to resign.


His resignation letter and other comments raise important questions about what stance a professional organization such as the AIA, with 89,000 members, should take following a divisive national election.

Read’s messages to the AIA also provide insight into how one architect is grappling with the aftermath of the general election and the way he believes he was represented by a professional organization to which he belonged.

Read is an award-winning architect who has headed his own office since 1994. He is a LEED accredited professional who holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Notre Dame and is registered in five states. According to his website, his firm provides “a comprehensive range of services in architecture, planning, and interior design for institutional, municipal, commercial and individual clients in Maryland, south-central Pennsylvania, and Delaware.”

Here is the November 9 statement from Robert Ivy that triggered Read’s resignation and set off a firestorm of comments from architects around the country. It was issued the day after the general election.

The AIA and its 89,000 members are committed to working with President-elect Trump to address the issues our country faces, particularly strengthening the nation’s aging infrastructure. During the campaign, President-elect Trump called for committing at least $500 billion to infrastructure spending over five years. We stand ready to work with him and with the incoming 115th Congress to ensure that investments in schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure continue to be a major priority.

We also congratulate members of the new 115th Congress on their election. We urge both the incoming Trump Administration and the new Congress to work toward enhancing the design and construction sector’s role as a major catalyst for job creation throughout the American economy.

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.

Here is the back and forth with Read, Baltimore AIA chapter Executive Director Kathleen Lane, and Ivy, following Read’s initial letter. All of this correspondence was copied and sent in a chain to dozens of AIA members. Read sent his resignation letter on November 10 to Lane and Baltimore AIA chapter president Anthony Consoli.

Lane responded on November 10 at 6:52 pm, via iPhone.

Dear Fritz,

I and an [sic] absolute agreement with you, and I can certainly take some time to explain the AIA national government relations need to remain neutral no matter what.

At this moment though, I am on the way back from an AIA Baltimore committee on architecture for education workshop cochaired by Scott Walters, which is convening or professional community in advocating for the best possible learning environments and outcomes for students in Maryland schools, in response to a Governors commission on reducing school costs. This is a vital topic, among others, which may be much more aligned to your values, and which we at the local and state chapter level of AIA are striving to make a difference, and would very much benefit from your involvement.

We would certainly be very sorry to lose you. Will send a more thoughtful and thorough response.

Kind regards

Kathleen
Sent from my iPhone

Read wrote to Lane on November 10 at 7:28 pm.

Kathleen,

Appreciate the response. Am so curious how a pledge made explicitly on behalf of all 89,000 members of open-ended and unqualified support for a climate-change-denying, xenophobic, racist, sexist, repeated bankrupt can possibly be understood as a statement of organizational neutrality, and what required that it be made now, without membership input. As I told Anthony in his immediate and generous phone call, I am always more than happy to engage in conversation, but my decision is firm: I cannot continue my association with an organization that would permit its leaders to issue such a thoughtless and ill-considered statement on our behalf. Ours is not an honorable history of willingness to forgo enrichment simply on principle, and this statement slips all too closely to the worst of that: are we all too young or forgetful to recall that Albert Speer was one of ours?

I have enormous respect for Scott’s continued willingness to engage in all that he does with the AIA on behalf of the community, and I do understand that there may be more opportunity to do good there than by following the path I’ve chosen, so I wish you well from the bottom of my heart, but I really cannot stomach remaining a member of the AIA.

Fritz Read

Lane sent a longer response to Read on November 11 at 11:17 am.

Dear Fritz,

For all friends and colleagues copied here who may not have received the AIA statement to which Fritz refers, please see it attached below.

Fritz, I understand wholeheartedly and share the feelings you express so eloquently. The strength of AIA is as a member-led organization. I urge you to send your message directly to Robert Ivy, as well as our current President, Russ Davidson, and Presidents-Elect, Tom Vonier and Carl Elefante—and I will also share your message with them.

The AIA as a national, state, and local organization does NOT maintain neutrality, and rather takes very clear positions on issues that are vital to our members’ values and to the profession, such as environmental sustainability, global climate change, resiliency, community development and the public realm, equity and diversity issues, education, and more. To do so credibly and effectively, the organization must work with each administration duly elected according our democratic principles. That message, I believe, was the intent of the AIA press release below, and certainly not a statement of support of the elected themselves, or of those platforms that are in direct contradiction to the values, ethics, and positions of AIA and its members.

My own strong feeling is that as a result of this election it is even more imperative to work together diligently as a profession with our communities at the local level, and this is what we strive to do here at AIABaltimore with numerous programs such as the Committee on Architecture for Education program cited below, the work of our Committee on the Environment/Resiliency, Equity/Diversity Committee, as well current initiatives with Neighborhood Design Center on community design efforts, Adopt-a-School programs in underserved communities, and so much more.  Your involvement and direct engagement would greatly strengthen these efforts, and losing you as a member and ally of AIA will certainly diminish these. We hope you might reconsider.

All best,

Kathleen Lane

Read responded to Lane on November 11, reaffirming his decision.

Dear Kathleen,

So very sorry that you find yourself in the position you’re in; I know it must be difficult. You do persuasively raise the age-old argument that continued work from within may accomplish more than my simple angry rejection of the organization, and I will not fault anyone who makes that choice thoughtfully. But I cannot make that choice myself, cannot remain associated with the AIA, and must reaffirm my resignation from the AIA effective immediately.

Thanks for all that you do so ably.

Fritz Read

On Nov 11, 2016, at 2:10 PM, Lane wrote:

Fritz,

I don’t shirk responsibility whatsoever for supporting the views of the AIABaltimore membership, whatever the difficulty of the position.  In addition to forwarding the messages to Robert Ivy, I have also spoken to the AIA media staff, and they deeply regret the statement, which they feel was poorly written and ill-timed, and certainly not intended at all as it is being received.

I am terribly sorry this results in the loss of you as an AIA member.  Please know we’ll continue to be here working on behalf of the profession, and our Baltimore community, and will welcome you back at any time.

With respectful best wishes,

Kathleen

Fritz Read’s response:

Kathleen,

Thank you once again for working as hard as you do on behalf of the profession. I hope you will know and trust that I have had great respect for your work since you came to the Baltimore chapter, that I have seen you as a sign that we might be able to get it right, and that my departure is in no way to be taken as a repudiation or criticism of anything you have done. You deserve some real gratitude for how much you try to do.

Best regards always,

Fritz Read

Ivy sent a message to Read on November 11 at 6:38 pm., asking him to “stay engaged with the AIA.”

Dear Fritz,

Thank you for your sincere and heartfelt email to Kathleen.  This has been a challenging and at times dispiriting campaign process for all of us. As architects, we are trained to work collaboratively to find common ground on difficult design issues with the goal of creating a better environment for everyone. The divisiveness of this campaign has truly tested all of us.

At the same time, despite whatever personal views we might hold, we need to respect the outcome of the election, no matter how we feel about it. For more than a century, the AIA has worked with policymakers from both parties and all viewpoints to advance policies that benefit the practice of architecture and the built environment. That means working with Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between.

The individual who serves as President of the United States will be making decisions on issues that impact architects and our work, and they will do so whether we engage in the process or stay silent. Ensuring that policymakers hear our voices is a top priority of the AIA at all levels of government, from the White House to city councils. If we do not work to engage with those in power, then we are leaving the fate of our profession in the hands of others.

That said, we will remain true to our principles and values. The AIA strongly supports elevating and respecting the dignity and worth of all people, for example, and we are committed to addressing the impacts of climate change through policies that promote sustainable and resilient design. We stand ready to work with any policymaker who is willing to work with us, but we also are not afraid of calling out policymakers who do not share our values or work to oppose our interests.

To that end, I encourage you to stay engaged in the AIA, and share with us your views on the major issues. In the coming days we are issuing our biennial Call for Issues, where we ask all AIA members what issues they want us to take to Congress and the White House. Only by listening to you and the other 90,000 members of the AIA can we develop a clear, strong message on what architects believe and what we are willing to fight for. I hope you will continue to help us lift our voice and make sure we are heard.

Sincerely,

Robert Ivy, FAIA

Read responded to Ivy on November 11.

Dear Mr. Ivy,

You patronize me with your overly long explanation of the need to work with who we are given rather than who we might wish to have, something that any of us certainly knows from hard experience in practice.

What any of us also knows is that it is precisely when we pledge our willingness to work together that we make clear our values and the conditions of our collaboration, not later. You seem either to be unaware of the importance of that, or to think that it can simply go unsaid. This could be true under certain very limited circumstances of trust, conditions that no thinking person could believe obtain in the present case, where we are facing the need to work with someone so openly hostile to many of our cherished professional and moral values. I’m amazed that you put as much ink to paper as you did in justification of a clear misjudgment on your part, and did it without any evidence of apology or embarrassment. You have done me the great favor of confirming that I have no place in an organization that you would presume to lead, and have let me rest easily with my decision.

Since I am no longer a member of the AIA, you owe me nothing further in reply or attempted explanation, but I firmly believe that you owe a full and heartfelt apology to the remaining membership, and your immediate resignation, to allow the AIA to be represented instead by someone who might more fully and thoughtfully engage the incoming administration on the basis of the AIA’s clearly stated shared values.

Finally, since this is not a matter of private disagreement between the two of us, but a matter of very public importance for our profession, I have copied here all those who were part of the initial thread, with the wish that they will share it widely, to help inform the next steps that the AIA membership and leadership must take.

Sincerely,

Fritz Read

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