A Brief Architecture Manifesto

Political writers have spilled much ink during the course of the 2016 election season, most of which poured light on the reality that a Trump victory in America would be a loss for the nation, a blow to the environment and spell regression in much of the economic and social ground gained thus far. These were not hyperbolic convictions of fervid leftist eccentrics – these were the realities that Trump himself made clear throughout his campaign, and architects need take note.

It is nearly impossible to create a hierarchy of the most absurd, insulting, dangerous or downright untrue claims that Trump has made, but one that qualifies in all of these categories is the claim that global warming is a hoax.

What does this claim from a President-elect mean for architects and those hoping to enter and better the practice? Firstly, it is well known that buildings are the largest causes of CO2 emissions – from construction to occupancy. This is why initiatives such as the 2030 challenge, which tasks architects to strive towards carbon neutrality by 2030 came to be. Carbon emissions and global warming are why the Paris agreement was initiated in the first place. Trump and his administration could single handedly undermine that and destroy the future of not only America, but the world.

To dismiss global warming as a hoax is to liberate architects, builders and designers of all responsibility in adhering to sustainable building practices. To liberate architects, builders and designers of all responsibility is to fuel rather than suppress global warming. To fuel global warming is to spell disaster for everyone. This is Trump America. Imagine this: Coal mines reignited to their full former “glory” – carbon spewed into the sky, choking our atmosphere, while below, short-minded capitalists enjoy the boom of cheap energy and their rise in wealth. This is the future that Trump’s America proposes. The fundamental flaw in this is not only in the fact that their argument against global warming is baseless, but also in the fact that the President Elect is capitalizing on the fears and desires of a class of people who were most impacted by the move to sustainability yet were left off the negotiating table when it came to sustainability talks and measures. They voted him in. He was the only one listening to them.

Any resolution towards promoting climate action and maintaining the Paris agreement will not come solely from convincing an asinine world leader to “vote yes” on climate action. The change comes from the people who brought that leader to the helm. Coal miners. Small business owners in fossil-fuel- producing towns. These are the voices largely unheard in the pre-trump era. These are the people we must consider in a sustainable and clean future. They are the engine that drove fossil fuel interests into the white house – trump was simply the sooty exhaust expelling their views un-apologetically.

Specifically, to listen to and consider this class of people is to guarantee them jobs, convince them of the importance of clean energy to their own lives, and reward any and all initiatives they take towards sustainability. Not trickle-down, but bottom up. This could be by converting former fossil factories to clean energy factories that employ the same workers, subsidizing the cost of clean energy versus the cost of pollutants, and more. In other words, to win the fight for clean energy, it must be made worth the while.


Image source: Carbonbrief.org