ARCHITECTURE & A MORE JUST WORLD: A LETTER FROM CHAPTER PRESIDENT CYNTHIA WILLIAMS

While coping with illness, loss of life, economic insecurity, and stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s understandable to long for life to “get back to normal.” But as the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others have reminded us, so many in our community continue to face systemic inequality. We have much work to do to ensure that we do not return to this “normal,” but instead, work to create a more just world.

While we mourn, I want to take this opportunity to revisit the AIA’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The AIA stands for human and civil rights, the universal respect for human dignity, and unbiased treatment of all persons. Through programs like the national Diversity Recognition Program, the AIA recognizes architects and others across the country that work to diversify the profession of architecture, which has historically excluded people of color. In Cincinnati, the AIA participates in the Cincinnati Architecture Mentoring Program (C.A.M.P.) that introduces youth, many from minority communities that are underrepresented in our profession, to the practice of architecture.

Through the Whitney Young Jr. Award the national AIA honors the legacy of Whitney Young Jr. Young was a civil rights leader in the 1960s who exposed the glaring lack of diversity in the architecture profession and challenged architects to design more equitable communities. This year the award celebrates Gabrielle Bullock, FAIA. Currently the Director of Global Diversity at Perkins and Will, Bullock was the first African American and first woman to become a Managing Director at the firm. In her career she has worked tirelessly for socially responsible design.

One of the lasting outcomes of the civil rights movement in the 1960s was the emphasis on participatory design. AIA Cincinnati’s Urban Design committee recently held a salon on the guidelines for development in Over-the-Rhine and a community workshop on the future of the Lick Run neighborhood in Fairmount; both programs engaged architects, government officials, and local stakeholders in a conversation about shaping their communities.

Architects are holistic thinkers that combine creativity with practical solutions. With this skill comes much responsibility. As we stand in solidarity with our African American chapter members, we also invite suggestions for ways that AIA Cincinnati can better support communities of color.

Let us recommit to creating environments that are safe and welcoming for all. 

Cynthia Williams, AIA
President of AIA Cincinnati

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