What does Donald Trump mean to architects? A Fayetteville voice urges wait-and-see | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What does Donald Trump mean to architects? A Fayetteville voice urges wait-and-see

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 1:11 PM

MARLON BLACKWELL: Cautious about what Donald Trump plans mean for architectural principles.
  • MARLON BLACKWELL: Cautious about what Donald Trump plans mean for architectural principles.
Can you do this in Arkansas — question Donald Trump, even carefully? Marlon Blackwell seems to have done so. He's a nationally noted Fayetteville architect and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas  Fay Jones School of Architecture.

The Atlantic's City Lab website reports that, the day after the election, Robert Ivy, CEO of the American Institute of Architects, blasted his 89,000 members with an e-mail congratulating Donald Trump on his presidential victory and noting Trump's promise to spend money on infrastructure. “We stand ready to work with him and with the incoming 115th Congress,” the letter said.

Many architects weren't happy.

By last week’s end, Ivy had a full-blown mutiny on his hand. The editorial board for The Architect’s Newspaper, writing in high dudgeon, posted a response condemning the AIA’s “conciliatory note” and the “tone, character, and appropriateness of Ivy’s memorandum.” The Newspaper passed along almost two-dozen co-signing statements, from top practitioners such as Florian Idenburg (of SO-IL) and Nader Tehrani (of NADAAA) to institutional and academic leaders in design. At least one architect has resigned his membership with the organization.

Marlon Blackwell—whose Fayetteville, Arkansas–based firm, Marlon Blackwell Architects, was named the top design firm in the country for 2016 by Architect magazine—describes Ivy’s statement as “too little, too soon.”

“I don’t even know what [Trump] means when he’s talking about infrastructure. I understand it as roads and schools, things of that nature,” Blackwell says. “What if it turns out what he’s talking about is walls and detention centers?”

The architect, who also received a 2016 National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, says that he appreciates what Ivy was trying to accomplish. He trusts Ivy’s intent. But by foregrounding the opportunity that an infrastructure bill could represent for architects, the AIA has set aside the many real differences between its own stated principles and those of the Trump campaign.

“I see this situation that’s happened as a kind of circumstance, and we’ll either be directed by circumstance or we’ll direct circumstance through our principles,” Blackwell says. “The principles of the AIA are clearly stated with regard to climate, diversity, affordable housing, gender pay equality.”

Ivy insists he shares those principles. And the article notes that the organization is non-partisan. It undoubtedly includes people from many political backgrounds. But, again from Arkansas:

“There’s a rush to normalize things,” Blackwell says. “I’m leery of this being misread by this new administration that we’re somehow in agreement or just willing to set aside what we stand for.”

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