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AIA Chicago speaks out against post-election statement from national leadership

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The Chicago chapter of AIA publicly rebuked an earlier statement supporting Trump’s infrastructure plan

This week, the Chicago branch of the American Institute of Architects took an official stance to distance itself from an earlier message from AIA CEO Robert Ivy endorsing President-Elect Donald Trump’s infrastructure initiative. Many within the group’s 89,000 person membership took issue with the AIA’s national leadership pledging unconditional support for Mr. Trump’s relatively vague election night promise to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges essentially on their behalf.

The November 10th release, which has since been removed from the AIA’s website, read as follows:

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

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

This has been a hard-fought, contentious election process. It is now time for all of us to work together to advance policies that help our country move forward."

The memo provoked a strong reaction across the professional architecture community and the proliferation of a #notmyAIA hashtag. Late last week, Architect’s Newspaper published a lengthy editorial counter to AIA’s press release. Architect Fritz Read from the group’s Baltimore chapter even resigned from the organization in protest.

On Monday, AIA Chicago issued its own rebuke of the national office’s statement to its local membership, highlighting a growing rift between leadership and satellite chapters:

The AIA Chicago Board of Directors wants to assure our members that we do not support the recent statement made by national AIA on November 10, which prematurely expressed the support of AIA’s 89,000 members for an unarticulated infrastructure agenda made by the incoming presidential administration. Further, we are committed to working with all of you to deepen our diversity and inclusion initiatives, and to continue the discussions that affect positive change on issues that are critical to our profession.

The release goes on to reaffirm AIA Chicago’s commitment to “engage, educate, and challenge” elected officials on issues including climate change, building stronger communities, and promoting equal opportunity in the architectural field.

Finally yesterday, after five days of either defending or tacitly endorsing the original statement, Robert Ivy gave into the growing backlash and joined AIA national president Russ Davidson in an official video apology. Ivy attributed the admittedly “tone deaf” language of the memo to election night emotions while Davidson labeled the statement a mistake.