A Plea for Stronger Architectural Ethics

Should architects recuse themselves from designing buildings that violate human rights? Raphael Sperry says yes, especially when it comes to two building types that are ethically troublesome: execution chambers and supermax prisons.

Sperry, president of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), pens an opinion piece for The Architect's Newspaper in which he calls for the AIA to amend its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to prohibit the design of “buildings that violate human rights.” He bases his call on two specific (and rare) building types: execution chambers and supermax prisons.

"Consider that doctors, nurses, psychologists, anesthesiologists, and many other medical professionals have specifically amended their ethics codes to prohibit participation in executions or any act of torture. The World Medical Association code even states, 'The physician shall not provide any premises, instruments, substances, or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture.'”

"Does the public expect anything less from architects who 'provide premises' as our basic public service? Does our obligation to protect public 'health, safety, and well-being' not include, as a bare minimum, a commitment to stop making places where—admittedly despised—members of the public will be killed or tortured?"

"What’s at stake here is not just the tiny number of contracts for these building types," Sperry argues, "but architects’ professional commitment to public well-being."

Full Story: AIA Must Do More For Human Rights


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