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AIA Board of Directors commits to advancing justice through design


WASHINGTON – Dec. 11, 2020 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Board of Directors yesterday adopted new rules in its Code of Ethics regarding the design of justice facilities. This, among other things, reflects AIA’s ongoing effort to meaningfully address structural racism in the built environment and to uphold our professional values.

“We are committed to promoting the design of a more equitable and just built world that dismantles racial injustice and upholds human rights,” said AIA 2020 President Jane Frederick, FAIA. “Specifically, AIA members are required to uphold the health, safety and welfare of the public. Spaces for execution, torture and prolonged solitary confinement contradict those values. This decision emphasizes AIA’s commitment to making a difference on this issue and upholding human rights for our society.”

Specifically, the AIA Board approved new rules to the Institute’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct prohibiting members from knowingly designing spaces intended for execution and torture, including indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more per day without meaningful human contact, for more than 15 consecutive days. The Board’s position is that the design of such spaces is inconsistent with the profession’s fundamental responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and uphold human rights. A statement of position was also adopted by the Board stating the AIA and its members:

AIA will create a task group to better define restorative justice in the context of the profession, collaborate with its partners to identify best practices, and develop resources and educational opportunities for members over the next several months.  

AIA has considered the role of architects in the design of spaces for execution and prolonged solitary confinement for a number of years and most recently engaged with the National Organization of Minority Architects, Architects/Planners/Designers for Social Responsibility, and the Academy of Architecture for Justice, an AIA knowledge community, to gain more understanding of these issues and the larger context of justice through design. In July, the Board directed the AIA National Ethics Council to re-examine the issue. This followed the AIA’s statement on racial injustice in June prompted by social movements, demands for justice and the nation’s unprecedented reckoning with inequity.

Visit AIA’s website to review the complete text of the new rules added to AIA’s Code of Ethics.


Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing.

AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation, and world. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards.

Jessie Cornelius
(202) 626 7302