The American Institute of Architects has approved new rules forbidding members from designing spaces for execution or torture. The group, which was founded in 1857, had previously resisted calls to stop its 90,000 members from designing US prisons.
Last year they published an opinion that found that the design of a death chamber ‘reflects conduct that is sanctioned by society in those jurisdictions where capital punishment has been adopted as the law of the land.’ But following the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020, wide-spread Black Lives Matter protests and a call by prominent African-American architect Michael Ford, the board reconsidered.
The new code of ethics aims to address ‘structural racism in the built environment’, by banning members from designing execution spaces as well as ones for solitary confinement. But it stops short of preventing them from being involved in designing prisons as a whole.
A task force has also been established to look into what designing for restorative justice might look like.
Jane Frederick, AIA president, said: ‘We are committed to promoting the design of a more equitable and just built world that dismantles racial injustice and upholds human rights.’
African Americans make up 33% of the US’s two million incarcerated people, despite constituting just 12% of the general population.