In early February, when Architectural Record broke the news that President Trump might force classicism on future federal architecture, the design industry erupted in anger. Despite the fact that the rule still hasn’t been enacted weeks later, the frustration remains for many. Jean Baker, professor and author of Building America: The Life of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, argued that Latrobe, who contributed to the design of some of America’s most important government buildings, including the White House and the United States Capitol, would be “aghast at any politicizing of his designs.” The process of designing federal structures in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the Capitol was built, was fairly informal, she said. President George Washington solicited designs for the Capitol through a competition advertised in various newspapers, and the resulting building was unfinished when the government moved there in 1800. Latrobe pushed for the Capitol to be a significant and permanent structure and worked on the north and south wings until the War of 1812 diverted funding. “Latrobe was very conscious of the connection of architecture to the political ideals of the United States,” Baker told AN. “He argued, in a famous oration that was three hours long, that architecture, along with other arts, served freedom, and in Greece and Rome had strengthened those governments and would do the same in the United States.” According to Baker, Latrobe’s vision for the Capitol was for it to be functional, rational, and understandable “without any need for expert explanation, as he believed some European buildings needed, or a connoisseur for appreciation.” Opponents of Trump’s draft order have argued that a return to neoclassical architecture would result in buildings inspired by another time that need some amount of translation for the present or elevate certain cultural traditions over others. The National Organization of Minority Architects, for one, wrote in a statement that such structures embody “cultural exclusivity” and “would signal the perceived superiority of a Eurocentric aesthetic.” The contemporary buildings cited in the draft order “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” have “little aesthetic appeal” according to Trump, but have been lauded elsewhere. Both Arquitectonica’s Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Miami and the Morphosis-designed San Francisco Federal Building have won national design awards. Two weeks after the story broke, former presidents of the AIA added to the organization’s earlier, immediate reaction in a letter of dissension to the White House asking Trump to reconsider the proposed mandate. They argued that dictating a uniform style of architecture, whether neoclassical or modern, sets a precedent for suboptimal design. “The investment of federal funds into public buildings demands an appropriate return on investment to the American people—the taxpayers,” the former AIA presidents wrote. “That return is not guaranteed by stipulating a singular design style; it is achieved by engaging in a rigorous process that engages the most qualified and experienced design and construction professionals. In fact, it is well-known that neoclassical design often equates to higher construction costs and extended time schedules for project completion.” The issue extends beyond neoclassical aesthetics—material choices would be affected, as well, which would influence building performance and carbon footprints. If a certain style dictates the use of copious amounts of stone, then contractors have to seek out manufacturers and quarries that can deliver the quantities needed for a federal project with such a large square footage. Baker said that Latrobe, even in his time, sought out local materials for his buildings. The breccia marble found in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, for example, was quarried along the Potomac River. “Pure neoclassicists would demand marble,” she noted, which could complicate sustainable supply chains and material sourcing decisions. Federal projects located within the U.S. wouldn’t be the only built works affected by the order—it could affect the renovation and construction of embassies around the world. Many recently announced projects, like WEISS/MANFREDI’s update to the Edward Durell Stone–designed U.S. embassy in New Delhi, would have to reflect classical European values of architecture instead of a reinvented modernist aesthetic fit for India’s climate. Sources who spoke anonymously to AN said that design-excellence advocates have been fighting for high-design federal architecture at home and abroad for years in Washington, and it’s been an ongoing battle. Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the U.S. General Services Administration oversees the construction of overseas embassies, which is in fact managed by the State Department.
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Everyone from critics to commentators to professional organizations came out swinging this week in reaction to President Trump’s draft executive order to impose a neoclassical style (now publicly available) on all future federal architecture. AN reported yesterday that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) released a statement strongly opposing a uniform style, and according to Contract, the organization had prior knowledge of the draft and expressed concerns over it during a mid-January meeting with James Sherk, a top policy aid in the White House. In a statement published today by Contract, the AIA issued a letter to Trump after news broke about the leak, asking the president to “ensure that this order is not finalized or executed.” At the time of the aforementioned meeting, the AIA said it believed the draft was not moving forward. “We were shocked and disappointed to hear that it is still in circulation,” the organization wrote in the letter. The AIA isn’t the only top-level advocacy group in the industry to speak up so far, but it is one of the main avenues for those interested to take action against the draft order, outside of cold-contacting the White House Below, AN broke down highlights from the AIA’s letter to Trump, alongside responses from other major players in the industry: American Institute of Architects “The draft we have seen also attempts to define ‘classical architectural style’ to mean architectural features derived from classical Greek and Roman architecture with some allowances for ‘traditional architectural style,’" wrote the AIA in its letter. "Given that the specific type of architecture preferred in the order can increase the cost of a project (to up to three times as much), we would hope the GSA, Congress and others would take pause. Since these costs would have to be borne by U.S. taxpayers, this is not an inconsequential concern… “President Trump, this draft order is antithetical to giving the ‘people’ a voice and would set an extremely harmful precedent. It thumbs its nose at societal needs, even those of your own legacy as a builder and promoter of contemporary architecture. Our society should celebrate the differences that develop across space and time.” The Architecture Lobby (T-A-L) “Seizing on architectural styles is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes,” wrote The Architecture Lobby in a statement. “The particular appeal to classical architecture often uses the nostalgic appropriation of style by fictionalizing national heritage and manufacturing an ideal subject to marginalize and other while simultaneously claiming moral superiority. The Lobby wants to draw attention to the larger ideological implications this implies, implications that go beyond a conservative approach to style or limitations to freedom of expression. Neoclassicism in the US is directly related with the construction of whiteness. It was whiteness that was sought after in the many plantations houses that chose the style, justifying it as an emulation of ancient Greek ‘culture’ to separate themselves from the Indigenous peoples whose land was stolen ad the enslaved African people forced to build and work in them. Thomas Jefferson’s excitement with the work of the Beaux-Arts school in Paris was motivated by a desire to make America ‘European,’ and white... “Privileging historicist architecture is a common tool of the capitalist class in the United States as well. This tactic is used in planning codes and by homeowners associations to favor traditional aesthetics under the guise of human-centric design, but whose true purpose is to continue the legacy of red-lining by preventing the densification and diversification of neighborhoods. The ultimate goal is to inflate property values and maintain the racial and class segregation of our cities, to create an environment fo capital to continue the destruction of communities through gentrification. The ‘Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again’ executive order is a reformulation of these local aesthetic strictures at a national level and a blatant attempt to leverage aesthetics in the service of white supremacy.” National Trust for Historic Preservation “While the National Trust values—and protects—traditional and classical buildings throughout the country, to censor and stifle the full record of American architecture by requiring federal buildings to be designed, and even altered, to comply with a narrow list of styles determined by the federal government is inconsistent with the values of historic preservation,” wrote the National Trust in a statement. “The draft order would put at risk federal buildings across the country that represent our full American story, and would have a chilling effect on new design, including the design of federal projects in historic districts…We strongly oppose any effort to impose a narrow set of styles for future federal projects based on the architectural tastes of a few individuals that will diminish, now and for the future, our rich legacy of federal architecture.” Vishaan Chakrabarti, Founder of PAU Studio “Like the fundamentalists who desecrated Bamiyan and Palmyra, it is only the most insecure, arrogant and petty of leaders who attempt to remake the world in the delusions of their dominant image,” Chakrabarti said in a statement provided to AN. “Once again the Trump administration is making their hatred of our diversity clear, a hatred we must fight to defend the pluralist idea of America that most of us hold dear. Make no mistake, this is artistic censorship, and censorship is yet another step towards the fascism that clouds our land.” National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) “Diverse cultural influences on the creative expression of our collective built environment is vital to the strength of our society and paramount to our freedom as Americans,” wrote NOMA. “Given the historical significance of NOMA, rooted in the African-American experience, we are especially cognizant of the notion that for many of our members, such buildings in certain contexts stand as symbols and painful reminders of centuries of oppression and the harsh realities of racism. As architects, we are called to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. We have a duty to advocate for design that reflects the values of the people we serve: ALL of the people. The proposed Executive Order, if enacted, would signal the perceived superiority of a Eurocentric aesthetic. This notion is completely unacceptable and counterproductive to the kind of society that fosters justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Freedom of architectural expression is a right that should be upheld at the highest levels of government.” The Architectural League of New York “The Architectural League fundamentally opposes the imposition of a “preferred” style—whether classical or any other—by diktat as the enforced representation of the American people and their institutions,” wrote Paul Lewis, president of The Architectural League NY, and Rosalie Genevro, executive director. “Such a policy would be anathema to the idea of a free, diverse, and inclusive society. “Architecture that represents the American people must be created in response to specific sites and specific needs, responsive to local communities and conditions, drawing on the skills of the country’s most talented architects.” American Society of Landscape Architects “The American Society of Landscape Architects has profound concerns about a proposed executive order that would impose uniform style mandates on federal building projects,” said Wendy Miller, president of ASLA. “Our nation’s design professionals are admired around the world for their creativity, innovation, and diversity of thought. Designers of the built environment should not be confined by arbitrary constraints that would limit federal building projects to a single style. ASLA believes that the public interest is best served by a collaborative place-based process that continues to produce federal projects that reflect the unique needs and values of each community and its citizens.” Docomomo US “The draft executive order which states, “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style’ would roll back Federal architectural policy by nearly sixty years and set a dangerous precedent for how we value our nation’s architectural diversity and history," said Todd Grover, the vice-president of advocacy, at Docomomo US. “We, along with our colleagues at the American Institute of Architects (AIA), oppose this change in policy to promote any style of architecture over another for federal buildings across the country. This decision could create long-standing issues with new and also existing facilities that have achieved significance since the 1960s.”
Jamaica’s new Houses of Parliament will be designed by a team led by local architect Evan Williams of Design Collaborative. The group beat out 23 other teams, including ones with Adjaye Associates and Adrian Smith, in an international competition. "Out of Many One People," the name of the winning proposal, will be constructed in Kingston’s National Heroes Park. The team submitted a circular, monumental design reminiscent of a stadium. It features diagonal bracing on the exterior and includes surrounding landscaped areas for sports and cultural activities. Set within an 11.4-acre piece of parkland, the project is part of a master plan to redevelop downtown Kingston. Jamaica launched the competition last May to find an architect to design the 160,000-square-foot building that will house both the legislative and executive branches of government. Gordon Gill, a partner in Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and a native of Jamaica, served as the competition patron. To enter the race, there was one strict but unique rule: Eligible teams had to be led by a citizen of Jamaica, residing locally or abroad, who is also a registered and licensed Jamaican architect and capable of being the project’s architect of record. The teams also had to contain “at least 50 percent Jamaican citizens or persons of Jamaican heritage.” Twenty-four teams entered, including groups from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Argentina, Turkey, Serbia, Iran, Trinidad, and Guyana. Five finalists were selected last fall, but “Out of Many, One People” won out. The jury called it a “grand and heroic gesture.” The entry was a collaboration between architect of record Evan Williams of Design Collaborative Architects and Town Planners, lead designer Damian Hines of Houston-based firm Hines Architecture + Design, as well as Christopher Bent and Gregory Lake. Their submission was also selected as the People's Choice winner. The competition organizers, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) hope the government will line up funding in time to begin construction in 2021. Other finalists are listed below. View their submissions here. Second place: "The Grand Verandah" Team leader: Ravi Sittol of Atelier-Vidal Ltd. of Jamaica. Team: Atelier-Vidal Ltd./Adjaye Associates, including Vidal Dowding and David Adjaye. Third place: "Ubuntu" (“I am because we are”) Team leader: Damian Edmond of Form Architects in Kingston and Trinidad, West Indies. The team included Edmond and Franz-Joseph Repole. Fourth place: "National Flower" Team leader: Stephen Facey, chairman and CEO of PanJam Investment Ltd. and Jamaica Property Company Ltd. Team: Facey, Hugh Dutton, Laura Facey Cooper, Jenna Blackwood, and Patricia Green. Fifth place: "A National Veranda" Team leader: Guenet Anderson of GSA Architects and Planners in Jamaica. Team: Anderson, Emerson Hamilton, Adam Bridge, Lee Edgecombe, Dwhyte Batson, Cheryl Hamilton, The Edgecombe Group of Hyattsville, Maryland., CTA Consulting Engineers and DCI Architects of Rockville, Maryland, SK&A Group, Moya Design Partner, Hamilton Associates, AMAR Grou, and Alter Urban Architecture of Washington, D. C.
After a record 35-day-long government shutdown over funding for a southern border wall was put on hold for lawmakers to hash out a continued spending bill, it now appears that the Trump administration will declare a national emergency to appropriate funds for the wall. The president is in Washington, D.C., to sign a massive $328 billion bipartisan spending bill that would have only allocated $1.4 billion for the construction of 55 miles of fencing, well short of the $5.7 billion he had previously demanded. As the New York Times and other sources are reporting, the president is expected to sign the bill as well as declare a national emergency. The government was set to shut down again on February 15 if no compromise over the issue had been reached by then. On the Senate floor today, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Trump "is prepared to sign the bill" and that "he will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time." Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Senator McConnell's comments, and added that the president would also take unspecified "other executive action." The president had been threatening to fund the border wall through alternative means for months, but any plan to do so could face a legal challenge from Democratic lawmakers and nonprofit groups, as well as the possibility that the Senate would rescind the declaration via a two-thirds majority vote.
A national emergency would allow the Trump administration to pull funds from other accounts, such as disaster relief spending (including reconstruction money designated for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria), and the military budget. Update: On February 15, president Trump officially declared a national emergency and will direct $8 billion towards the construction and repair of 234 miles of wall along the U.S.'s southern border. That figure includes the previously allocated $1.375 billion, as well as $3.6 billion diverted from military projects, $2.5 billion from the Pentagon's drug prevention program, and $600 million claimed from the drug forfeiture program.
Statement on Government Funding Bill: pic.twitter.com/DrNv9D4rEi— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) February 14, 2019
Earlier this week, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced its new initiative to advocate for improved school design policies. Yesterday a representative from the architectural organization met with senior White House cabinet members to discuss legislation that promotes the design of open learning environments that enhance security and safety. Jay Brotman, AIA, the partner at Svigals+Partners who led the design of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, spoke on behalf of the AIA in Washington. In his statement, Brotman presented best practices used for the school’s secure design and how his team collected input from the community, teachers, and students to address the most crucial needs. “The desire to craft design strategies that mitigate the challenges schools face is an absolute priority,” he said. “As architects, we do this every day. However, two ongoing problems prevent local school officials from implementing these solutions: a lack of access to quality school-design information and the ability to fund them.” Part of the AIA’s goal is to assist the government in creating legislation that provides pathways for federally-funded architecture and design services and grants. They also want to establish a “federal clearinghouse” of resources detailing best practices for school officials, architects, and design professionals to stay updated on the latest research involving safe school design. In front of the Federal Commission on School Safety, Brotman explained that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in designing these facilities. “Whether it’s a retrofit or new school, each school must be designed for its unique student population, for its unique location, and to meet the needs of its unique community,” he said. “The primary goal is to provide an inspiring, health environment that promotes learning. Security features, while vital and necessary, should be as invisible as possible and incorporated into the school’s design. Failing to do so puts children’s education, emotional development and pro-social behavior at risk.” The AIA has yet to unveil any specific design prescriptions for school safety, but Brotman’s testimony is one step closer toward creating more awareness on the importance of safe education architecture. Yesterday’s meeting isn’t the first instance this month in which the AIA has spoken out on the topic. RTA Architects principal Stuart Coppedge, FAIA, presented insights into the collaborative design and community evaluation process to the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Commission on School Safety in early August while members of the AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) also gave recommendations for safe school design to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Fast Company recently reported on the potential comeback of one of the most infamous building materials of recent memory. Asbestos is now legally allowed back into U.S. manufacturing under a series of loopholes by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Fast Company reported, on June 1, the EPA authorized a “SNUR” (Significant New Use Rule) that allowed the distribution of products containing asbestos on a case-by-case basis. According to Fast Company, the EPA's recently released report detailing its new framework for evaluating the risk of its top prioritized substances states that the agency will "no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments." This news comes after the EPA reviewed its first batch of 10 chemicals under the 2016 amendment to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which requires the agency to continually reevaluate hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals in lieu of removing them from the market or placing new restrictions on their use. The SNUR greenlights companies to use toxic chemicals like asbestos without consideration about how they will endanger people who are indirectly in contact with them. Asbestos was widely used in building insulation up until it was completely banned in most countries in the 1970s. The U.S. severely restricted its use without completely outlawing it. As Fast Company covered, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) revealed in April that asbestos-related deaths now total nearly 40,000 annually, with lung cancer and mesothelioma being the most common illnesses in association with the toxin. Healthy Building Network (HBN), an environmental advocacy group, told Fast Company that the fibrous material poses a major health risk for everyone exposed to it, including those who mine it, those who handle it in industrial facilities, as well as people near or inside renovation and construction projects where it’s being used. HBN’s Board President Bill Walsh said that the chlor-alkali industry is the only industry in the country that still uses asbestos, reportedly importing about 480 tons of the carcinogen each year from Russia and Brazil. Walsh pointed out to Fast Company that chlorine-based plastics are commonly found in building-product materials and that “virtually all” asbestos in the U.S. is used in the industrial process to make chlorine. This includes PVC and vinyl plastics, which is largely found in the creation of pipes, tiles, flooring, adhesives, paints, and roofing products. Though the EPA is now easing its regulations against integrating the harmful toxin and others like it under the Trump administration, it will largely be the responsibility of local and state governments, as well as companies and informed consumers to counter these new federal moves. Walsh told Fast Company it’s up to sustainable building-product manufacturers and ultimately, architects to pressure the market. “Architects really set the pace of design, in terms of aesthetics and materials that we like,” he told Fast Company. “If they start to incorporate health-based criteria into their palette, it could really have an influence on what the manufacturers produce.” Earlier last month, The Washington Post noted that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the ADAO had discovered a controversial post on Russian asbestos exporter Uralasbest’s Facebook page showing photos of company pallets stamped with a seal of U.S. President Donald Trump’s face. As The Post covered, Trump has long been vocal about his skepticism about the harmful effects of asbestos, claiming in his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, that anti-asbestos efforts were “led by the mob.” The Post uncovered how in 2012, he tweeted that the World Trade Center might not have burned had the fire-retardant material not been removed from the towers. It’s estimated that 400 tons of asbestos fiber went into the structures before the developers stopped it from being used further in 1971. The EPA told The Washington Post it will conduct further studies on the first 10 chemicals under the amended TSCA and final risk evaluations will published in December 2019.
Last November, the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Trump announced an average of 21 percent import duties on Canadian timber products entering the U.S. The announcement was greeted with mixed reactions within the construction industry; builders claimed that the tariffs would increase the cost of construction, and American suppliers argued that the domestic timber industry would benefit, expand, and keep wood prices low. Single-family home construction in the U.S. relies heavily on Canadian softwood for roofing and framing. In 2017, Canadian lumber yards supplied 28 percent of the U.S. softwood lumber market, and home builders have been the first to raise concerns about the new duties, which were in effect by January. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) claims that the imposed tariffs have added approximately $9,000 to the cost of single-family homes and up to $3,000 on multi-family homes. The NAHB doesn’t believe U.S. domestic production is capable of meeting the current market demand and that the tariffs only hurt native manufactures by forcing them to increase their lumber prices. The NAHB is calling for the Trump administration to resume talks with Canada to secure a more mutually beneficial long-term agreement. David Logan, director of tax and trade policy analysis at the NAHB, says that historically, the U.S. lumber field has never been able to support rapid housing growth. “Buyers are still buying from the distributors they’ve always sourced from despite the tariffs,” he said. “Domestic lumber production has increased marginally in the last year, but it’s not kept up with the housing demand in terms of percentages, so it’s hard to say that we’re meeting the challenge. This has always been the case. We can’t meet that need...not even close.” Logan also argued that larger lumber companies in the U.S. are profiting unfairly from the deal, citing the Seattle-based Weyerhaeuser, which owns 12.4 million acres of forest in the U.S. alone and manages 14 million acres in Canada, as well as West Fraser, a Vancouver-based company that operates 48 mills across both countries. The NAHB claims that these companies are able to reap the benefits of both markets under the current trade agreement and likely won’t be affected if things change again. “We say over and over again that we need predictable and stable supply. That means using Canadian lumber,” Logan said. “Diversification of operations in the biggest mills on both sides of the border has really hampered any progress towards talking further about this issue because they’re able to increase production and do well. Prices have been so high there’s not really room for anyone but the big players to have a seat at the table, whether they’re Canadian or American.” The U.S. Lumber Coalition (USLC) rejects these claims. “Since the duties were implemented," the USLC wrote in a statement last week, "U.S. lumber shipments have increased by about 1.4 billion board feet, roughly filling the gap left by the decrease of Canadian imports. U.S. companies continue to invest in expanding their production capabilities to mill lumber from American trees by American workers to build American homes.” Pleasant River Lumber, a small milling company based in Maine, isn’t experiencing the negative side effects that the NAHB claims is coming out of the current tariffs on timber. In fact, the company is on track to complete a $20 million expansion at two of its four sawmills in the next 18 months. As part of the USLC, Pleasant River Lumber sources 95 percent of its lumber within the state of Maine and takes a bit from New Hampshire and Canada as well. Owner Jason Brochu is pleased with the country’s newfound focus on local production and plans to take advantage of it. “Increased demand due to forest fires and hurricanes in other states, spiked prices from the duties, heightened transportation costs, and a strong housing market all factor in to establish a level playing field for lumber production in the U.S. right now,” said Brochu. “We can’t compete against the government or any larger mills without things being equal.” Pleasant River Lumber is capitalizing on the growing lumber market by adding 50 percent more capacity to its production facilities and hiring 40 new employees as quickly as possible. They plan to boost production of their dimensional lumber from 200 million to 300 million board feet annually with the upgraded equipment. More importantly, they’re investing in their framing mills to address the increased demand within the housing market. “We believe we’re pretty typical of most mills in the country at this time,” Brochu said. “Most mills in Maine specifically are adding shifts or putting more money into mills to increase volume. We’re confident that the duties protect our rights as producers in the U.S. and we feel like the laws are working the way they should.” Brochu also emphasized how “relatively insignificant” framing lumber is in housing construction. USLC said the same thing stating that lumber makes up only 2 percent of the cost of a new home—which in 2018 stands at $368,500. Framing lumber isn’t the only wood material that’s used to construct new homes. Plywood, which has zero duties imposed on it, flooring, and other timber products are also increasing in price. New York-based specialty wood-product manufacturer Hudson Company said the niche wood market has been affected as well. Two of its most popular reclaimed-wood products, both of which feature Canadian imported lumber, have both been impacted dramatically, says owner Jamie Hammel. Sales of silver pine siding are down by 60 percent, while hand-hewn beams are down 40 percent. “The reason our business is not down by 60 percent,” he said, “is because we sell other things. But we've had to limit the amount of volume we import because of the tariffs and we’ve had to diversify our product line to adjust and will continue to do. We’ve had to source more products locally which I guess was the administration’s goal.” The timber tariffs against Canada were among the first official duties placed on another country by the U.S. government since Trump took office. In the ten years since the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) was established in 2006, the U.S. Commerce Department has allowed Canadian companies to sell lumber to the U.S. market at subsidized prices, lifting previously countervailing and anti-dumping duties as long as prices stayed above a certain figure. The SLA expired in 2015 and since then both countries have been unable to negotiate a new deal. On behalf of the NAHB, Logan said that his organization doesn't foresee a new Canada-U.S. deal happening in the near future. “We don’t think the dialogue will reopen any time soon as long as the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations are ongoing. If history repeats itself...the last time this happened it took around 5 years to settle,” he said referring to the original SLA. “Hopefully I’m wrong and this is done very quickly. Until then, prices will maybe get a bit higher, but volatility will certainly increase.”
To those architects itching to build President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall: Maybe try again in September. According to preliminary reports, a forthcoming $1 trillion congressional budget deal to fund the continued operation of the federal government will strike a blow to several of the President’s key campaign promises, leaving controversial proposals like funding a border wall between the United States and Mexico, a long-touted $1 trillion infrastructure package, and the threatened de-funding of so-called “sanctuary cities” unfulfilled. Instead, the bill includes roughly $1.5 billion in new border security spending earmarked mostly for repairs and technological upgrades of existing elements, among other items. That amount is far less than the roughly $70 billion needed, according to a recent report by Democratic staff of the U.S. Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The report, released last week in anticipation of this week’s contentious funding negotiations, is not kind to the wall effort and cites that the review process for proposals submitted in late March is already behind schedule. AZ Central reports that the estimated $70 billion would cover only the construction costs and does not include the cost of land acquisition along the border necessary in order to build the wall or the cost of maintenance for the structure once—really, if— it is built. The reported $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill is another short-term casualty of budgetary negotiations. The Hill reports that congressional leaders had originally planned to fund new infrastructure spending by imposing a reduced tax on companies that repatriate earnings currently held overseas back to the United States. The solution was thought to have bipartisan support, but those efforts seem to be falling apart: A recently-issued one-page tax reform outline presented by the President did not specify how the money would be spent and congressional Republicans fear Democratic support for the bill would falter due to grassroots political pressure aimed at stalling the President’s agenda. The forthcoming budget agreement, however, has maintained a certain amount of funding for mass transit initiatives in Democratic-leaning states, including $100 million of the requested $650 million needed to modernize and electrify California’s Caltrain network. The proposal also fulfills funding promises for two extensions of Los Angeles’s Purple Line subway extension, improvements for New York City’s L Train, and a new light rail extension in Denver, Colorado. Congressional leaders must pass their proposed spending bill by May 5th in order to avert a government shutdown. Budget negotiations will ramp back up again over the summer in advance of the start of the new fiscal year on September 6, 2017.
U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro visited Chicago today to announce a clarification to the 1968 Fair Housing Act that officials say will improve access to affordable housing in cities across the country. HUD finalized a bureaucratic rule that Castro says will correct shortcomings in the federal agency's provision of fair housing. The 1968 law, part of the Civil Rights bill, obligates HUD and its local affiliates to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a lofty goal that “has not been as effective as originally envisioned,” according to the new HUD rule. "This represents a new partnership with cities,” said Secretary Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Standing in front of Chicago's newly expanded Park Boulevard—the mixed-income housing development was formerly Stateway Gardens, part of the corridor of South Side housing projects that included Robert Taylor Homes—Castro said the new rule will make publicly available data and mapping tools to help community members and local leaders establish local goals for the development fair housing. He added that Chicago had already used the newly available data for a preliminary exercise linking affordable housing and transit planning. The change also allows local housing agencies more time and flexibility in presenting their fair housing priorities and goals to the federal government. Castro referenced a recent Harvard study that found kids from low-income neighborhoods were statistically less likely than their wealthier counterparts to achieve upward mobility. "A zip code should never prevent anyone from reaching their greater aspirations,” said Castro.
At the AIA’s National Convention in Denver, held from June 19–22, AN’s Emily Hooper sat down with Spanish architect Francisco Mangado, who was in attendance to receive an honorary fellowship. Mangado discussed foreboding amendments to Spain’s law of professional services that would allow engineers, or anyone deemed “competent” in construction, to design and erect buildings across the nation. The law was introduced at a council meeting of Government Ministers in April of 2013, and a final pass-or-fail decision will be reached by the end of this year. Mangado: At the moment, we are very concerned about this. There are important demonstrations in Spain against this amendment because the government wants to change the law and allow engineers to do buildings. Right now, only the architect has the capacity to design and build buildings. But now the government, in a very very wrong way I think, [has proposed this and] there is no correspondence with the kind of training of architects and engineers receive in school, to extend the possibility to design and make architecture. Of course we are complaining, not only for a professional questioning, but for cultural and conceptual consideration. Architecture is not only construction. It has to do with the city, with the values of the citizen, with the public space, with beauty, with historical and symbolic concepts, but engineers don't manage these. In the same way that I'm not prepared to make a bridge, I think the government has to realize engineers aren't prepared to design buildings. Right now we are organizing a lot of complaints. After the summer I think the country’s students of architecture will go out to the streets to demonstrate and defend the profession, even with very violent demonstrations because it’s the only way our government will understand these things. We have a government that’s a disaster. The crisis is terrible but this government is increasing that crisis. So the problem of Spain is not only this government; the former government—of socialism—was another disaster. And the conservatives are just another. So the problem of Spain is our politicians. We have a very intelligent country of people who are well prepared with the capacity to work but we have a cancer—which is called politicians. They don’t accept anything. They don’t understand anything. I studied economic science before studying architecture; I know what it means to make an economy. An economy is a very important political component. Economy doesn’t mean you manage a society as if we were just a number in a computer. It’s much more. What is happening with architecture is just another sign of how wrong they are. But we have confidence in the citizens that we will defend our position. My family created an architecture and society foundation that at the moment is considered the most important architecture institution in Spain. Because the social architectural association went bankrupt from the crisis, our association has assumed the role of organizing conferences, lectures, and defending architecture in this sense against the government. If it’s necessary to be in the street, with protest, with violence, we will be there defending architecture. AN: So, this law is an economic measure. Mangado: Exactly. They are making this because they think they are going to reevaluate the cost for doing architecture. The reasoning is the more people they have doing architecture, the less the fees. But it’s completely wrong. At the moment in Spain, there are 40,000 architects and another 40,000 students of architecture, waiting to become architects. With this enormous amount of architects they already have competition. Architecture is a relationship with society. We are making buildings to serve a society, so architects have to be keen on these kinds of questions. What also happened is the government has made the most of the academic schedule in order to prepare this law because they know that 40,000 students are on vacation and they know if these students were at university now, tomorrow they’d have 40,000 young people on the streets.
The State Department’s overseas embassies are getting a facelift. Under the "Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Worldwide Major Rehabilitation/Renovation Architecture/Engineering Design Services solicitation," a team of designers will overhaul overseas facilities. The Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations announced Monday that five design teams would undertake the major governmental project: Beyer Blinder Belle Architects, BNIM Architects, Krueck & Sexton Architects, Weiss/Manfredi Architects, and Zimmer Gunsul Frasca. More than 270 diplomatic missions (embassies, consulates and other facilities) fly the U.S. flag. Since 1999 OBO has completed 89 new structures, with 43 more in design and construction.