As it has been widely reported, hundreds of thousands of women, men and children crowded the National Mall January 21 for the Women’s March on Washington. Among the many who came out to stand in opposition to the incoming administration were architects and designers from organizations including The Neighborhood Design Center, Impact Design Drinks DC, Open Architecture Collaborative, Institute for Public Architecture, Architexx, Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, The Architecture Lobby and AIANY Women in Architecture. Apart from defending their right to practice architecture, designing homes rather than being confined to them like their grandmothers, many of the attendees’ concerns went far beyond feminism and calls for equal pay.
While none of the organizations listed above endorsed specific polices of the March, the architects and designers who attended had a wide range of individual concerns with the administration’s policies. The AIA Code of Ethics requires architects to improve “the environment and quality of life” and to “uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.” In additional to his refusal to pay architects and contractors on several of his developments, the President’s refusal to acknowledge climate change and his desire to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border propose ethical dilemmas within the building and construction industry. His choice of Energy Secretary for example, Rick Perry had previously campaigned for President on the promise to abolish said organization. Additionally, the choice of Ben Carson for HUD secretary was particularly troubling for volunteers with Open Architecture Collaborative who are concerned by both his lack of experience in the field and his desire to cut funding for social welfare programs, including public housing assistance.
While the months since the election have been uneasy for many, the march offered a moment of catharsis and a reason to stand in support for human rights and the environment. With signs proclaiming “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and “Mr. Rogers would be ashamed” marchers chanted “this is what democracy looks like” and discussed ways our various professional organizations will continue to fight for the causes we are obligated and honored to defend.
The March was an empowering experience, which has inspired a movement to resist the Trump administration’s divisive policies. As many who attended begin to write postcards to their Senators and plan future rallies, the architects in attendance will take this experience back to their organizations energized to continue to build positive change through design.