Posts tagged with "AIA":

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Project tackling gender-restricted bathroom access wins AIA Innovation Award

A transdisciplinary project about designing more inclusive public bathrooms has just been awarded one of two Innovation Awards by the AIA. Stalled!—a project led by architect Joel Sanders, transgender historian Susan Stryker, and legal scholar Terry Kogan—takes on the national controversy surrounding trans individuals’ access to public bathrooms through the lens of design. The timing of the award could not be more apt, with the Trump administration proposing to limit the legal definition of gender as the biological sex assigned at birth, affecting the roughly 1.4 million Americans who identify themselves as trans or as a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth, a status currently protected under civil rights laws. The AIA Innovation Award recognizes projects that inventively implement technology and new practices in the management of a building’s lifecycle. By offering research and design standards for more inclusive bathrooms, Stalled! moves beyond polarized rhetoric to present practical design solutions. The project tackles the norm of the sex-segregated bathroom in three areas: offering best practice guidelines for all-gender, multi-user bathrooms; amending the International Plumbing Code to allow for such design interventions; and conducting outreach and education efforts within the design and institutional community about the alternatives. According to Stryker, a professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Arizona and an expert on transgender history, culture, and politics in the U.S., the single-sex public bathroom is discriminatory against a wide range of individuals and not just those who are trans. These include people with disabilities whose caretakers are another gender identity, those who are gender-nonconforming, and fathers who need to take their daughters to the bathroom. A commonly offered solution—the single-user, all-gender bathroom that supplements the male and female bathroom—“replicates the idea of separate but equal” by creating a segregated space for those who are not cisgender or identify either as male or female. According to Stryker, the multi-user, all-gender bathroom that Stalled! advocates for simply works better, and installing such a bathroom does not even require ideological agreement about what gender is. Retrofitting an existing set of facilities or creating a new one “doesn’t take up more space, and meets all of these needs. It’s powerful, simple, and elegant, and offers equity of access,” added Stryker. A case study on the Stalled! site shows a retrofit of the Field House at Washington, D.C.–based Gallaudet University, featuring an inclusive changing room and bathroom. Stalled! also features an airport bathroom prototype that separates the bathroom into three zones for grooming, washing, and using the toilet, rather than by male and female users. Beyond bathrooms, the principles of inclusive design can extend to other public spaces as well, and the project team from Stalled! has begun a startup called MIXdesign that will apply this approach to other institutions that have historically excluded those who are not able-bodied, cisgender, male, and white. The debate about gender identity and public space appears to be far from over, and if the record of the Trump administration's measures against recognizing trans or non-binary gender identities is any indication, it appears this will be a protracted issue in the coming years. In the meantime, Stalled! offers itself as an online and real-time resource for design professionals and institutions seeking to make their bathrooms more accessible to all.
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AIA creates initiative to avert gun violence in schools

In response to the rising tide of school shootings and subsequent debates over the role and responsibilities architects face in designing schools, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has codified their stance and has launched a bipartisan initiative to help schools secure architectural services. In a statement released earlier today, Where We Stand: School Design & Student Safety, the AIA broke down how it will advocate for schools to improve their design policies and how it will help schools secure funding to do so; notably absent were any specific design prescriptions. “Architects have a role to play in addressing school violence,” wrote AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA, in a press release. “For two decades, architects have worked with school communities racked by tragedy to develop better strategies in school design. While public discourse on access to firearms and mental health services remains deadlocked, the power of design can improve school safety now. AIA is committed to working with stakeholders and officials to make schools safer while building the positive, nurturing, learning environments we all want for our children.” To meet those goals, the AIA will be taking a two-pronged approach: lobbying for schools to be able to use federal funding and grants on architectural and design services, and creating a federal repository of best practices for designers to draw on. The AIA already maintains a list of academic design resources and hosts the Committee on Architecture for Education, but wants to create what they describe as a “federal clearinghouse” to serve as a national resource. The AIA is also touting its participation in the two-day 2018 National School Security Roundtable sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security on August 1, in which members fielded suggestions from the community on how to design schools that were safe but still open. Of course, all of this is to say that, as the Institute has itself acknowledged, design is only a piece of the equation and won’t solve the problem in the long run. The AIA says that it wants to create scalable design guidelines based on local feedback from the community and local chapters. As the renewed Sandy Hook School from Svigals + Partners demonstrated, it is possible to balance those concerns in a practical manner, and is a welcome alternative to proposals calling for the "hardening" of schools– such as calls to use federal funding to harden buildings into windowless bunkers.
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AIA to send delegation to Global Climate Action Summit

With buildings responsible for about 47 percent of electricity usage in the U.S., making buildings more efficient should be a top priority in combatting climate change. New York City has already pledged to retrofit its older buildings and slash CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050, but with the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, such action has been left to cities and states to undertake voluntarily. At the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this September, businesses, investors, and local and state leaders from across the country will convene to discuss ways to decarbonize the economy and reach a carbon neutral U.S. by 2050. The AIA has announced that it will be sending a delegation headed by President Carl Elefante, FAIA, to represent architects at the summit and come back with a set of scalable best design practices. The AIA members attending will be part of the organization’s sustainability-oriented Committee on the Environment (COTE) and other climate change-related groups. The AIA will also be sponsoring two public events during the summit: Carbon Smart Building Day on September 11 and Climate Heritage Mobilization on September 12 and 13. The summit is meant to in part build momentum for COP24 in December, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Still, even if radical decarbonization guidelines are agreed upon at the summit and adopted by the AIA and business leaders in attendance, such a shift likely wouldn’t be enough to reach the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s target of limiting global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celcius. The Paris Agreement and temperature targets are only reachable if the world were to produce negative emissions and sequester CO2 on a massive scale, a technology that’s still several years away. Still, the AIA has pledged to continue pursuing its sustainability and environmental health goals, as seen in its recent call for a blanket ban on asbestos in building products after the fracas last week.
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AIA calls for blanket ban on asbestos after online uproar

In response to a rush of online outrage on Tuesday, the American Institute of Architects has issued a formal statement detailing its stance on the U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos. Today the organization submitted its comment in opposition to the recent decision via the EPA’s online public commentary portal. The comment takes the form of a letter from Sarah Dodge, the AIA’s senior vice president of advocacy and relationships, to acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. In it, the AIA urges the agency to “establish a blanket ban” on asbestos in the country and phase it out of use. “Either by existing authority or through a significant new use rule, the EPA should review and eliminate the use of asbestos in domestic or imported materials,” the letter says. Dodge explains that it’s the responsibility of architects to ensure the inclusion of healthy materials within building projects, and in instances where hazardous substances already exist inside renovations, it’s up to design professionals to guide involved parties in the safe removal of those toxins. AIA 2018 President Carl Elefante, FAIA, released a separate statement reiterating Dodge’s letter:
The EPA has offered no compelling reason for considering new products using asbestos, especially when the consequences are well known and have tragically affected the lives of so many people. The EPA should be doing everything possible to curtail asbestos in the United States and beyond—not providing new pathways that expose the public to its dangers.
Wheeler wrote in a tweet yesterday that the recent hype regarding the SNUR has been inaccurate. He noted that the SNUR would actually restrict new uses of asbestos, not encourage it. According to the FAQ linked in the tweet, the potential uses for asbestos that would be banned from the market through the SNUR include asbestos-reinforced plastics, extruded sealant tape, millboard, roofing felt, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, roof and non-roof coatings, and other building products. Items such as corrugated paper, rollboard, and flooring felt have already been banned outright in the United States. The FAQ doesn't quite hold up to recent reports on the Obama administration's involvement in restricting these toxic substances and the subsequent products. Under the 2016 amendment to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA), the EPA began the process of evaluating the first 10 toxins listed in order to decipher whether or not they should be banned entirely or further restricted. This week's frenzy over asbestos comes directly from the EPA's May report indicating how the agency would move forward in evaluating those chemicals.  As of yesterday, 154 comments were submitted to the EPA regarding the SNUR. Today, that number has increased to 698. You can still submit a comment to the EPA through tomorrow, August 10. Thereafter the agency will review all comments and further evaluate the initial toxins up for review in the TSCA. Final details of their deliberations and a new version of the rule will be released in December of next year.  
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Why are architecture’s major professional organizations silent on the immigrant detention debate?

A preliminary Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to house nearly 100,000 detained migrants across California has been shelved.

 According to a draft Navy memo reported by Time late last week, the military base at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego and the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) east of San Francisco were being eyed as potential sites for “temporary and austere” detention facilities that would hold up to 47,000 detained migrants each over coming months. The plans encountered swift and fierce local opposition from residents and City of Concord officials alike, prompting DHS to unofficially reconsider the plan. Aside from local political opposition to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies—especially with regard to the policy of separating migrant families and detaining separated children under inhumane conditions—locals pointed to the CNWS site’s environmental toxicity and the presence of unexploded munitions on the grounds as additional reasons against its use as a detention facility. The dust-up in California comes as the United States government works to expand the number of migrant detention facilities across the country in order to deal with the rapidly growing number of detainees resulting from its hardline stance against incoming migrants and refugees. The memo uncovered by Time estimates the government is projecting to warehouse up to 25,000 detained migrants over the coming months in abandoned airfields across southern Alabama and in the Florida panhandle in addition to the nearly 94,000 detainees planned for California. There is no word regarding where or whether the detention facilities originally slated for California are being relocated to other sites. The new facilities will join what is quickly becoming a sprawling, nation-wide network of private jail facilities, non-profit-operated detention centers, and now, camps and “tent cities” located on military bases aimed at housing detained migrants. Perhaps nothing has brought this more into focus than recent controversy over the Trump administration’s policy of family separation. Although President Trump recently put a temporary halt to the practice through an executive order, nearly 2,500 children have been separated from their families over the past two months and are now being detained in facilities spanning at least 15 states. According to government figures, roughly 12,000 migrant children overall are currently being held in over 100 facilities across the country, many of which are at or exceed their designated capacities, and some of which are facing allegations of abuse and misconduct, not to mention ill-equipped to handle the mental health, welfare, and legal hurdles these children face. As a result, the nation’s sprawling—and expanding—carceral archipelago has now become a major source of  political, ethical, and moral debate. 

As with the vast for-profit prison system, there are many questions about the ethical and moral implications of designing and constructing these facilities. So far, however, the architectural profession is staying mostly out of the fray, with a few exceptions. Last week, The Architecture Lobby (TAL) and Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) issued a joint statement rejecting the role of architects in designing such detention facilities, stating, “The Architecture Lobby and ADPSR call on architects, designers, planners and allied professionals to refuse to participate in the design of any immigration enforcement infrastructure, including but not limited to walls, checkpoints, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices, detention facilities, processing centers, or juvenile holding centers. We encourage owners, partners and employees who find themselves in practices that engage in this work to organize, and deny their labor to these projects.” The statement came as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) held its annual convention in New York City, an event that was marked with a heavy emphasis on the profession’s attempts to overcome the diversity and inclusion hurdles currently faced by the white- and male-dominated profession. It was not long ago that the association drew the ire of its members following the 2016 national election, when AIA CEO Robert Ivy declared that AIA members “stand ready to work” with Trump toward shared goals like infrastructure investments. During last week’s conference, ADPSR attempted to get AIA leadership to endorse its rejection of detention center projects, an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful, though the group is still working to convince the AIA to adpot its position. Raphael Sperry, president of ADPSR, told The Architect’s Newspaper, “People should recognize that immigrants, including currently undocumented people in the United States, contribute greatly to architecture, and always have. There are immigrant and undocumented architects, builders, carpenters, plumbers, welders. We must recognize and respect the contributions of everyone who shapes the built environment, and ensure that our profession and our broader industry respect human rights for everyone.” When reached for comment on the question of whether architects should take on these commissions, Carl Elefante, AIA president, referred AN to the AIA press team. When contacted, a representative of the AIA simply asked, “Why do you think architects are working on these projects?” without providing further comment. Even a casual observer would note that architects are likely fundamental to the development of not only the increasingly ubiquitous detention centers being built across the country, but also, as ADPSR points out, the myriad supportive facilities necessary for DHS to carry out its ongoing efforts to fight so-called “illegal immigration.” Most notoriously, a 200,000-square-foot former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas came under scrutiny in recent weeks as a detention center with a unique claim to fame—the largest detention center for migrant and refugee children. Operated by the privately-run Southwest Key Programs organization, the big-box detention center was converted from a retail store to its current use in 2016 as a result of corporate downsizing and currently holds roughly 1,500 separated children. The conversion likely required building permits, construction drawings, and the like—services that often require architects. It is safe to assume that local jurisdictions would require basic planning approval and permitting for these projects, so it seems natural that architects would somehow be involved in the propagation of these facilities. The silence from professional organizations on the matter is troubling to say the least; as the government ramps up efforts to build more facilities under increasingly hostile terms, it would benefit practitioners and contractors to understand the ethical implications of their work. Furthermore, other professional architectural organizations, like the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), have pushed to have architects and designers engage with migrant and refugee detention centers through design in the past. Last year, ACSA issued a controversial call for its annual steel construction competition, asking participants to design a “Humanitarian Refugee (Detention) Center.” The proposal drew ire from the architectural community as well, prompting the group to shut down the competition in exchange for a different brief issued earlier this year. In a statement announcing the end of the competition, ACSA remarked that it had received “justified​ criticism” over the prompt and that it regretted its decision to publish the competition. When reached for comment this week regarding the current debate surrounding migrant detention centers, a representative said, “ACSA does not have a comment on that issue. We do not take positions on the work that architects choose to take on.” The reticence that professional groups like the AIA and ACSA have toward speaking out against what many consider to be plainly unethical facilities speaks to the profession’s ongoing struggles with racial and ethnic diversity along with human rights concerns. Because detained migrants are being distributed among a network that runs the gamut of structures, from private prisons to improvised tent cities in remote desert sites, the implications of the expanding detention network extends beyond the realm of individual projects and firm-specific business decisions to encompass profession-wide ethical and human rights concerns. The racialized dimension of the immigration debate alongside the architectural profession’s continued lack of diversity present particular challenges for professional organizations and individual firms as they attempt to respond. At stake is whether—or how—the architectural profession will engage with the American immigration debate, and more broadly, with a global refugee crisis that is only due to keep growing in scope and severity as the effects of climate change and resource-driven conflicts spread globally. If AIA and ACSA will not provide leadership during these trying times, who will?  

Infrastructure: The Architecture Lobby National Think-In

Day 2: T-A-L Sessions Saturday, 6/23, 10a.m.-7p.m. At Javits Center, NYC This Think-In is divided into two parts over two days: active engagement with relevant session at the AIA National convention to ensure substantive dialogues on professional issues on Friday, June 22; and Think-In panel discussions on Saturday, June 23 at Prime Produce that examine the theme of Infrastructure. Infrastructure is the network of systems necessary for an organization to function. When those systems are degraded enough, the defining functions of the organization fail. The Architecture Lobby has selected this theme for its first National Think-In to generate a way forward and rebuild our discipline’s infrastructure. Check this space for more details soon!

Infrastructure: The Architecture Lobby National Think-In

Day 1: AIA Sessions Friday, 6/22/ 7a.m.-7p.m. At Javits Center, NYC This Think-In is divided into two parts over two days: active engagement with relevant session at the AIA National convention to ensure substantive dialogues on professional issues on Friday, June 22; and Think-In panel discussions on Saturday, June 23 at Prime Produce that examine the theme of Infrastructure. Infrastructure is the network of systems necessary for an organization to function. When those systems are degraded enough, the defining functions of the organization fail. The Architecture Lobby has selected this theme for its first National Think-In to generate a way forward and rebuild our discipline’s infrastructure. Check this space for more details soon!
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Architecture Lobby and ADPSR call on AIA and all architects to reject projects relating to immigrant detention

As recent news shed light on the thousands of families who have been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border in the last month, and as political pressure on the Trump administration to end the practice continues to mount, The Architecture Lobby (T-A-L) and Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) issued a statement that rejects the role of architects in designing such detention facilities. In their statement, both groups unanimously call for the federal government to end the militarization of the border and for architects to refuse to take on work that would further human suffering. “The Architecture Lobby and ADPSR call on architects, designers, planners and allied professionals to refuse to participate in the design of any immigration enforcement infrastructure, including but not limited to walls, checkpoints, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices, detention facilities, processing centers, or juvenile holding centers. We encourage owners, partners and employees who find themselves in practices that engage in this work to organize, and deny their labor to these projects. “For too long, architects have been complicit in human caging by designing and building these structures. Architects designed the facilities where children call out for their parents at night. Architects also designed the extensive network of facilities where their parents shiver in frigid holding cells. History has taught us that what is strictly legal is not always what is just. It is time for this to end. We call on professionals to join us in this pledge: We will not design cages for people.” T-A-L and ADPSR directly called upon the national AIA to “to prove its commitment to making more diverse, equitable, inclusive, resilient, and healthy places for all people.” As the 2018 AIA Conference on Architecture kicks off today under the “Blueprint for Better Cities” banner, architects from all over the country will be gathering to discuss how to improve cities for their inhabitants. With Walmarts being repurposed as child detention facilities and as the Trump administration floats the idea of building more “tent cities” to house migrants, architects will likely continue to be contracted to design these facilities. In their statement, T-A-L and ADPSR have asked that the AIA directly comment on the practice, and publicly condemn, or excommunicate, its members who would willingly work to design them. For its part, the AIA has issued past statements against immigration and visa restrictions and their impact on the profession, but nothing about the actual practice of taking on such work. AN will update this story with any potential responses from the AIA. On the grassroots level, at the time of writing, a document has been making the rounds on Twitter that lists the architects and contractors who have been identified as working on such facilities, with contact information for many.
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Equity and inclusion surge to the forefront of the AIA conference

With only a couple of days left until the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 (A’18) brings thousands of architects to New York City, many industry professionals are taking the opportunity to raise awareness about inequality, discrimination, and harassment in the field. A flash mob, workshops on #MeToo, and a resolution requiring ethical and equitable workplaces are all in the cards for this year’s conference. The rise of the #MeToo movement and the harassment and assault allegations against Richard Meier exposed fault lines in the architectural community that some say were always buried just below the surface. Women in architecture have been speaking up as a result, and architects are using this year’s convention as a national platform to make their voices heard. Frances Halsband, FAIA, co-founder of Kliment Halsband Architects, started a petition asking the AIA to amend their code of ethics to require that member workplaces must be free of discrimination, harassment, and abuse. Halsband’s petition and accompanying Fellowship is Leadership resolution, originally sent to 60 AIA Fellows, has signatures from nearly 500 fellows at the time of writing, over ten times the amount required to bring an item to a vote. "When I looked around, other architectural organizations were dealing with what had happened much more swiftly, and it seemed to me that the AIA was not doing enough," Halsband told AN. "I felt it was up to the Fellows to take a stand. If we’re supposed to be setting the standard, then we should set the standard." She added, "It’s one thing to belong to an organization that speaks for you; that’s a passive role. It seemed to me this is so important that individual people wanted to say, 'I believe this; I’m doing this.'" The petition was quickly codified into a resolution that Halsband brought to the floor of the AIA Conference on June 20 during the Business Meeting. Each of the delegates representing all AIA members will be given the chance to vote on whether to adopt the amendment. The measure passed overwhelmingly, with 4272 voting in favor of amending the code of ethics, 13 opposed, and 136 delegates abstaining. Carl Elefante, FAIA and AIA President, says that for their part, the organization is working to initiate a full suite of equity, diversity, and inclusion plans. The #MeToo movement and allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile men have brought a sense of urgency to the proceedings, said Elefante, but the AIA is a massive organization. Changes need to work their way through the appropriate committees and efforts to combat harassment and create a more equitable professional workplace have already been included in the 2016 – 2020 strategic plan. Ultimately, there are three levels in the AIA’s structure that need to be addressed: the national, at the 217 local AIA chapters, and on a member level. At the local level, Elefante discussed the coming harassment policy and training that chapters must adopt by 2019. Unfortunately, he noted, the AIA is an organization. Architects are either AIA members or they aren’t, and it often falls to firms to police their own culture. For their part, the AIA is working with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and with firms to raise awareness of the issues. On Friday, June 22, a flash mob intending to raise awareness of the discrimination and harassment that women in architecture experience, similar to the one staged at this year’s Venice Biennale, will gather at 12:30 pm at the AIA "member lounge" in the Crystal Pavilion on 34th Street and 11th Ave at the Javits Center. Beverly Willis, FAIA, of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, a nonprofit that advances the recognition and contributions of women in architecture, and Caroline James, who started the petition to retroactively award Denise Scott Brown the 1991 Pritzker, will be leading the charge. The AIA is hosting its own handful of workshops on equitable practices in the workplace as well. On Friday, June 22, visitors can attend the “Harassment in the Workplace, Part 1—Compliance and Culture: Building a Respectful & Harassment-Free Workplace Culture” workshop from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM. After learning how to recognize and avoid harassment in the workplace, conference guests can follow up with “Harassment in the Workplace, Part 2—Community and Resources: Hearing Voices & Exploring Conversation Strategies,” a panel on Saturday from 8 AM to 9 AM. Syracuse University’s Fisher Center at 19 East 31st Street will be holding a hackathon for equality on Wednesday from 1 PM to 5PM, where established architects and emerging voices can come together and present radical ideas for making architecture practices more diverse, equitable, and open spaces. Back at the Javits, interested visitors can stop by “The Missing 32 Percent (Women) & Missing Small Architects” on Thursday from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM and learn about the roadblocks that women in architecture face on their paths towards representation and recognition. The Architecture Lobby will be using the conference as a springboard for its own set of talks and workshops on Friday and Saturday. Saturday’s “Infrastructure: The Architecture Lobby National Think-In” will gather a diverse set of participants and build a dialogue about how to fix both the hard and “soft” (intangible) problems plaguing architecture. At the Think-In, the “Labor” session from 2 PM to 3:15 PM will address the problems of low wages, long hours, and the lack of job security facing architects; the “#MeToo” session from 3:30 PM to 4:45 PM will tackle the backlash that accusers often face when coming forward; and the “Alternative Forms of Professional Organization” session from 5 PM to 6:15 PM will examine how architecture practices and architects as individuals can best order themselves and create mutually beneficial professional structures. All of these sessions will be held at Prime Produce, a nonprofit gathering space at 424 W 54th Street.
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35 booths not to miss at the AIA 2018 Architecture Expo

The AIA 2018 Conference is almost here, and architects are already flocking to New York City for one of the biggest architecture events each year. The AIA Architecture Expo will be happening on June 21-22. The theme this year is "Blueprint for Better Cities," featuring materials that have a controlled ecological footprint. More than 800 leading brands and manufacturers will exhibit their cutting-edge technologies in the 200,000-square-feet gallery at the Javits Center. If you are planning your visit to the A’18 Expo, be sure to visit our editors’ picks of manufacturers and brands (which are also our distinguished sponsors). AkzoNobel - 449 Avenere Cladding - Swirnow - 4366 Bison Innovative Products - 4344 C.R. Laurence - 1945 Cambridge Architectural Mesh - 1715 Florim - 215 FunderMax GmbH - 662 GKD-USA, Inc. - 957 Graphisoft - 105 greenscreen - 828 Guardian Glass - 1003 InsiteVR - 1374 IrisVR - 1362 J.E. Berkowitz - 1981 Kawneer - 556LL LaCantina Doors - 1329 NBK North America - 4703 PlanGrid - 4006 PPG - 4225 Rieder North America - 4631 Rigidized Metals - 4540 ROCKWOOL - 1411 SageGlass - 4737 Shildan Group - 2657 Specified Technologies - 735 Swisspearl - 1562 TerraCORE - 4353 Tournesol Siteworks - 4630 Tremco Commercial Sealants & Waterproofing - 4937 Unilock - 4835 Viracon - 1767 Vitro Architectural Glass - 1631 Vitrocsa/ HIRT Windows, divisions of Goldbrecht - 2531 W&W Glass, LLC/Pilkington Planar Structural Glass - 1681 YKK AP America - 507
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Why are there so few disabled architects and architecture students?

In the United States, people with disabilities in the architecture profession and architectural academia are statistically invisible. Neither the American Institute of Architects, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, nor the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture collect data on the number of architects or architecture students in the United States who self-identify with physical or cognitive disabilities.  The groundbreaking report, “Inclusion in Architecture,” published by the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York, does not include data on disability. The lack of knowledge about disabled architecture students and architects in the United States stands in contrast to other strides made in diversification, equity, and inclusion. The profession’s self-examination—statistically and culturally—has forced a significant transformation in who can become an architect in the United States. Looking at attendance in colleges, faculty appointments, and representation at professional events, architecture appears to be a more diverse profession in terms of race and gender than it was 50 years ago. From celebrated architects to the deans of the most elite architecture schools, we can see efforts at diversification making a mark. Diversification is critical in architecture because ideas about race, gender, ability, and disability are formed and reproduced in the design and construction of buildings and urban spaces. The absence of disabled architecture students, architects, and particularly academic and institutional leaders within the United States relegates people with disabilities to being a a topic of discussion versus agents of change. In fact, a strand of disability theory argues that disability is a relative category, constructed in spaces that produce disabled bodies and minds. But whether perceived as innate or relative, a medical sensibility underpins many discussions of disability in architecture, because if people with disabilities are considered at all, it is as the subjects within spaces as opposed to the creators of them. This is due to several structural issues that prohibit people with disabilities from envisioning a future in which they participate in architecture in all its myriad manifestations. One key area that limits accessibility to architecture as a profession is the actual buildings where architecture education takes place. While numerous architecture schools are entirely accessible to people with disabilities, the majority of the elite Ivy League schools of architecture—Yale University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University—have historically had physically inaccessible spaces for people with lower-limb disabilities. In the 1990s, years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Yale, Princeton, Cornell, and Columbia still contained facilities inaccessible or difficult to access for people in wheelchairs. Almost all of these schools of architecture have been renovated, but key spaces—lecture halls (particularly the podium of the lecture hall where people speak), pin-up spaces, offices—remain either inaccessible or difficult to access.  Again, many schools have these problems, but these elite institutions have a disproportionate influence on the profession. We have lost out on multiple generations of architect leaders with disabilities who might have offered key perspectives on architecture, not only because of the barriers literally constructed in the architecture of elite institutions, but also due to the ways we imagine the production of architectural knowledge. For example, architectural education requires a thorough knowledge of historic precedents, but how do we imagine the spaces in which this knowledge is acquired? Consider the imagined physical commitment required to understand the discipline’s history, embedded in sites such as the Acropolis of Athens, the Roman Forum, or Teotihuacan, among numerous other examples. For the able-bodied, these sites are challenging places to visit—an observation confirmed by the writings of architects including Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, and Alvar Aalto. But both the Acropolis and the Roman Forum were far more easily navigated thousands of years ago (by contemporary standards) than they are today as “modernized” sites of architectural preservation. The early 19th-century Romantic notion of experiencing ruins under physical exertion has been permanently built into the experience of many important architectural monuments. This is a key aspect of historiographical aesthetics virtually unexplored in the literature or teaching of architectural historical practice. In other words, a romanticism of the body’s relationship to historical spaces hangs over the experience of architectural history, one that is furthered in the descriptions of these remote sites in classrooms and our expectations regarding the experience of the past. If the design of spaces of education and historical knowledge shape ideas about the abilities of architects, then the physical spaces encountered within architecture internships also require critical analysis. The ADA has enabled people with physical and cognitive disabilities in the United States far greater access to all types of buildings and public spaces. However, the ADA does not govern all construction sites. Even if architecture schools in the U.S. make a concerted effort to improve accessibility, there are several impediments to students with various disabilities becoming architects. It is virtually impossible to undertake an architectural internship without being able to navigate the relationship between the making of architectural representations in offices and the material assembly of architecture on a construction site. To imagine the increased accessibility of construction sites is utopian but necessary, primarily because doing so would re-envision the types of people who create architecture tout court. Labor unions might pursue this to further workplace safety. The latter is a staggering problem in an industry that is extraordinarily and needlessly dangerous: Over a 45-year career, someone working construction will have a 75 percent chance of acquiring a disability from a workplace injury. Construction work accounts for only 3 percent of employment in the United States and almost a quarter of all workplace injuries. Thus, we arrive at the most disturbing point about disability and architecture—the construction of buildings produces disability more than any other sector of the economy. To imagine the accessibility of a building extending from the people who dig its foundations to those who use its interiors enables us to reimagine what a building is at an ontological level. It radically transforms the disabled from being the subjects of spaces to the agents of architecture’s conceptualization and construction at the most granular level. Architects and architecture students are working at a time when discourses on diversity, equity, and inclusion have made measurable transformations within architectural academia and the greater profession. This has led to new generations of African-American, Latinx, and Asian-American teachers and students, the expansion of global architecture history curricula, and student organizations focused on race and gender, among many other outcomes. It is time that we let people with disabilities partake in this important transformation occurring in American architectural education and the profession. Of course, these forms of identification are not isolated, and opportunities exist for understanding intersecting and mutually reinforcing relationships among various forms of subjectivity and disability. In recent years, academic architecture panels, journals, and symposia have brought disability perspectives to architecture.  These are important contributions. However, in many of these venues, no architects with permanent and severe disabilities were present to represent this particular form of identity. As this article demonstrates, the structural limitations to a career as an architect with disabilities run deep, and the limitations to academic leadership in this area run deeper. To imagine disability having a place in architecture will involve much more than making buildings accessible or identifying people with disabilities and making entreaties to them to enter the profession. It will involve expensive transformations to the physical spaces of colleges and universities; a lessening of the athletic aesthetics of architecture history, theory, and design; and legal structures that will open a field like construction to more people. If we pursue these transformations in the accessibility of space, discourse, and construction, we will likely see a parallel shift in the types of people who imagine becoming an architect and leading this profession. In turn, the discussion of accessibility and its realization in the design and construction of buildings will enter a new, more sophisticated, and ethical stage of development. David Gissen is Professor of Architecture at the California College of the Arts. He became an above-the-knee amputee while an architecture student in the early 1990s – a surgery related to an earlier childhood illness.
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How can architects balance security and openness in school design after mass shootings?

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we the members of the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education (AIA CAE), feel compelled to express our collective sympathies to all affected by this horrible tragedy. Since the school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, there have been over 200 school shootings with nearly 150,000 Americans directly affected by these incidents. The courage, grace, eloquence, and poise of the students from Stoneman Douglas serve as an inspiration to us all. We hear their call for action and stand ready to support the cause. As architects of educational environments across the learning continuum, we look to Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) guidelines to help us design school facilities that discourage criminal behavior and bullying through the incorporation of unobtrusive security features that are compatible with positive learning environments. These include providing clear sightlines to parking lots from staffed administration locations, limiting building access to a single entry point with a sallyport design, target hardening through security glazing, enhancing passive supervision through interior transparency, territorial reinforcement through fencing and thoughtful landscaping, and other solutions. One of the dangers of these and other school hardening strategies, however, is that these measures alone aren’t enough. Sandy Hook Elementary and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had some of the “target hardening” elements described in many CPTED standards installed, and it didn’t stop perpetrators from entering the schools and causing tragedies. As architects, we are being asked to develop designs that provide for bullet-proof glass, secure entry vestibules, surveillance camera systems, etc. These can be beneficial to deter an active shooter and can also aid in providing deterrents for bullying and other unfavorable behavior, but they are not the exclusive answer. Our clients are being barraged with offers from various manufacturers about products that will shield students in the event of an active-shooter situation, and you can certainly understand the pressure from parents and community members to provide these measures and more to keep their kids safe. While we believe the safety and security of students, educators and administrators on school campuses are of paramount importance, it is our responsibility as architects, however, to serve as a counterpoint to some of these hardening tactics. We cannot let fear dictate design or advocate for designing our schools to resemble prisons. Our schools and communities deserve more from us. It is important to create spaces that are warm and welcoming to students, educators, and communities. We often work with schools, districts, and colleges to balance the need for safety and security with a strong desire for flexibility, collaboration and connection. In addition to providing enhanced security measures, we also need to look at research on provisions of “soft design” as well. In response to the MSD school shooting, we have seen many school and university officials, national educational organizations, affiliated organizations, and individuals come together as an interdisciplinary group to develop a “Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the US” where they stress the importance of creating stronger, more connected school communities focused on development and identification of soft skills in students to reduce the incidence of isolation, depression, bullying and discrimination in our schools. The design of schools can and should be an active partner in this conversation. Through transparency, adjacency, and the creation of warm, welcoming environments, architects can provide the physical spaces to nurture these activities. Svigals + Partners redesigned Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, after the horrifying 2012 shooting that killed twenty students and six adults. Today, it stands as a shining example of how to provide the highest safety and security features while emphasizing its educational mission and connection to the community. The members of the AIA CAE are fortunate in our work to bear witness to the incredible efforts of educators and administrators of public and private schools. In addition to their diligent focus on developing the knowledge, skills, and character of their students, we have seen how hard they work, within their often-meager resources, to attend to the social and emotional needs of their students. Today’s students face issues of stress, drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression and mental illness in quantities never before seen. It is through this lens that we understand the critical need for space and resources to support the creation of strong communities where each and every student feels heard, accepted and loved. Design of collaborative areas, transparency, and informal learning environments are keys to supporting next generation learning practices and to creating a strong sense of connectedness within a school or university campus. Although it is an uncomfortable and often controversial topic, no conversation about school safety and security can be complete without addressing the issue of gun ownership and safeguards. Recommendations to train and arm teachers to protect their students are inconsistent with the expert advice from school resource officers, school administrators, and teachers we encounter every day as we work with them to design safe and nurturing school communities. The National Association of School Resource Officers, the leading organization in school-based policing, issued a statement in the days following the MSD massacre opposing arming teachers. In the discussions we have with our school and university clients across the country, it is often stated that the answer to providing greater security on school campuses is fewer guns, not more. The leaders of the AIA CAE have heard from school and university administrators, educators, and students that we need to join them to compel our legislators to enact common-sense gun laws that are supported by a vast majority of Americans.  The protection of responsible gun ownership and the prevention of gun violence can both be achieved through thoughtful and forceful legislation that works in concert with mental health services and safe school design to ensure our schools remain a bastion of hope for our nation’s children. The voices of the Stoneman Douglas students and those from around the country that are joining them should inspire us all to be contributors to the solution. The time for words is over and the time for action is now. The leadership group of the AIA CAE continues to work closely with AIA National staff and officers to find ways to encourage a continued, multidisciplinary, and comprehensive dialogue around school safety and security. While working with a school community to envision their new school, we were recently asked, “How can the architecture support relationships?” This should be the lens we are using in designing our schools, and we as the AIA CAE look forward to continuing to develop opportunities at the national and local level to further this very important conversation. We hope you will join us! Karina Ruiz is vice chair of the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education.