As we prepare for the next meeting of the International Union of Architects (UIA) in Durban, South Africa, this August, we are confronted with a proposal that demands we take an immediate position. Reporter Harriet Sherwood wrote about the proposal on 03.20.14 in London’s The Guardian. Since the matter surfaced, there have been endless articles, e-mails, and calls. While some think it may all blow over, we cannot allow it to be floated without immediate objection.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) plans to bring a proposal to the floor of the upcoming 2014 bi-annual meeting of the UIA. The RIBA has demanded the suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) from the UIA, saying it is complicit in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and other violations of international law. While former RIBA President Angela Brady told a meeting of its council how important the proposal was, other council members pointed to human rights violations in other parts of the world, such as North Korea, which is a member of the UIA, asking why they should not be held to similar standards. Notable architects and members of AIANY have spoken out or written against the RIBA proposal, including Richard Meier, FAIA, and Daniel Libeskind, AIA.
AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, and I drafted a letter denouncing the RIBA proposal. The grounds upon which our draft was based centered on inclusion and dialogue, as opposed to exclusion and highly prejudicial, selective condemnation. The letter was put before the AIANY Board at its last meeting on 04.22.14. While certain details and some personalization were criticized, the general sense of the letter was approved. All thought it inappropriate for the RIBA to exclude an entire country’s architects – both Israeli and Palestinian – because the RIBA takes issue with the politics of that country. As the mission statement of the UIA is “to unite the architects of the world without any form of discrimination,” it should be obvious that excluding one country’s architects defeats the purpose. Continue reading “Ethics and the Road to Convention: Durban and Chicago”