[This is a version of a letter I sent to my local AIA chapter (where I am currently a board member).  I haven’t yet escalated this higher, but I am now at least making this public.  I’m not sure what my next steps are going to be.  Others have posted their own Open Letters to the AIA.  But I haven’t seen anyone else raise the issues I’ve pointed out, which I think could be embraced by both sides, as a larger issue than political side-picking.]

You may or may not already be aware that the AIA’s CEO, Robert Ivy, issued a statement shortly after the election, pledging: “The AIA and its 89,000 members are committed to working with President-elect Trump to address the issues our country faces…”  (The full statement can be found here: http://www.architecturalrecord.com/articles/11991-aia-committed-to-working-with-president-elect-trump)

In the face of such a polarizing election, to paint the entire membership in this manner is, at best, a tone-deaf platitude coming from an out-of-touch executive.

Without touching on the politics or the multitude of other reasons why the candidate-elect “has strong negatives,” the attitude of his message is galling and professionally offensive to me.  More important than what Mr. Ivy said is what he has left unsaid, and has allowed to pass without comment.

During the debates, Mr Trump was the candidate who tossed off the issue of not paying his architect with a glib line:

“CLINTON:  …  We have an architect in the audience who designed one of your clubhouses at one of your golf courses. It’s a beautiful facility. It immediately was put to use. And you wouldn’t pay what the man needed to be paid, what he was charging you to do…
“TRUMP: Maybe he didn’t do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work…
“CLINTON: Well, to…
“TRUMP: Which our country should do, too. ”


Here he is specifically endorsing the concept of clients who refuse to pay for services rendered.  Not in an oblique way, which is the best characterization one can give the “infrastructure improvements” Mr. Ivy hopes that will include architectural projects, but in a case specifically dealing with an architect going unpaid for his services rendered.

This should be repellent to each and every one of us.  Architecture is already a field with its own internal issues (unpaid internships) in this regard, as well as an ongoing issue that firms large and small have to deal with of clients refusing to pay for completed work.  While the large firms may be able to absorb these hits, they can be devastating to smaller practices.  But no one should go unpaid for services performed.

To the best of my knowledge, neither Mr. Ivy nor the AIA has addressed this statement, which is far more important to me than sucking up to the incoming executive in hopes of forthcoming work being tossed our way.

Many issues were raised in the course of the campaign, and Mr. Ivy’s decision to address the electoral aftermath in this way speaks more loudly to me in what is left unsaid.  The organization is supporting the position espoused by the candidate-elect by going along and not raising the issue of what should be a giant red flag for an organization seeking to protect and advocate for its members.

Speaking for myself, this does not in any way resemble the attitude of an organization that I would think would represent me and my interests.