American Institute of Architects (AIA): Prohibit the design of spaces for killing, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Petitioning American Institute of Architects (AIA)

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American Institute of Architects (AIA)

American Institute of Architects (AIA): Prohibit the design of spaces for killing, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

    1. Petition by

      Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility

In 2011, United Nations bodies determined that long-term solitary isolation is a form of torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment prohibited by international law, and made special reference to the United States use of supermax prisons and juvenile solitary confinement as violations. All international human rights bodies have also long included abolition of the death penalty as a necessary ultimate step in realizing human rights. AIA‘s code of ethics already includes the statement “Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors,” but this standard is unenforceable without reference to international human rights standards. Adding enforceable language to the AIA Code can help redress the problems caused by buildings that embody human rights violations.

Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) is asking the American Institute of Architects to amend its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to prohibit the design of spaces for killing, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the United States, this comprises the design of execution chambers; super-maximum security prisons (“supermax”), where solitary confinement is an intolerable form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and solitary confinement facilities for juveniles and the mentally ill. As people of conscience and as a profession dedicated to improving the built environment for all people, we cannot participate in the design of spaces that violate human life and dignity. Participating in the development of buildings designed for killing, torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is fundamentally incompatible with professional practice that respects standards of decency and human rights. AIA has the opportunity to lead our profession in upholding human rights.


* this campaign is fully described at - click on "Ethics Reform"

** You do not need to be an architect to sign this petition, and it is very valuable for AIA to hear from the general public on this issue. If you are an AIA member, please include "AIA Member" in the "Why is this important to you" field.

Recent signatures


    1. On TV!

      This campaign was recently featured on CBS News in a great story that highlights how architects strive to make the world a better place and can stop designing execution chambers and spaces for solitary confinement.

      The CBS report is mistaken at the end that AIA has not responded to our campaign. In fact, AIA has a national-level working group considering this petition. This makes the second half of 2014 a critical period. But as CBS did note correctly, we are raising money online in support of this petition. Please help cover our travel and other expenses in bringing this message to architects around the country by visiting our fundraising page at: Thank you!

      Bay Area Architects Refuse To Build Death Chambers

      A group of architects are taking a stand against the capital punishment and refusing to build death chambers. Da Lin introduces us to the architect of this movement.

    2. Reached 1,500 signatures
    3. UN and Amnesty International Endorsements

      International Human Rights organizations care about what AIA does (or doesn't do) about prison design. In strongly worded letters, both the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Amnesty International encouraged AIA to adopt ADPSR's proposed ethics language banning the design of execution chambers and spaces for prolonged solitary confinement.
      This burst of support makes it a good time to share ADPSR's petition with friends and colleagues. Help them to be on the right side of history with Amnesty and the UN, where you already are. Thank you!
      (For details of the endorsements, see ADPSR's campaign endorsements page at or

    4. AIA Portland endorses ADPSR Petition!

      The Portland, OR, chapter of the American Institute of Architects has sent a letter of support for ADPSR's petition seeking to ban the design of execution chambers and supermax prisons for prolonged solitary confinement to the national directors of AIA. "Some buildings do intentionally lead to human rights violations, and even though this is a very small number of buildings, it is of great concern given the gravity of the outcomes, including cruelty, degradation, and death. We do not enjoy dwelling on these topics, but when confronted with them, we find that a response is warranted," wrote chapter President Stefee Knudsen, AIA. See the whole letter on the campaign Endorsements page. (

      Thank you AIA Portland!

    5. Metropolis names ADPSR in 2013 Year in Review of Design and Activism!

      Good news! In their 2013 Year in Review, Metropolis magazine included ADPSR's work to end the design of prisons that violate human rights. Kudos to critic Mark Lamster of the Dallas Morning News for including us, and thanks to artist Christoph Gielen for an amazing picture to go along with it!

      This makes it a good time to share ADPSR's petition with your friends and connections. It's something good they can do for the holiday season!

    6. 1,000 Signatures and National Media

      Thanks to everyone here, we now have 1,000 signatures! What can we do but go for 2,000?!?! This campaign is steadily gaining media attention, and is working its way closer to AIA. Check out the CBC Radio national story:

    7. Reached 1,000 signatures
    8. Listed on Good.Is

      ADPSR's campaign has been featured on design social network Good.Is, along with Rpahael Sperry's thoughts on visiting Pelican Bay's Secure Housing Unit and some design changes in the works there. Check it out here:

      GOOD - For Everyone

      GOOD - For Everyone

    9. Reached 750 signatures
    10. Design Podcast 99% Invisible showcases ADPSR campaign

      Popular design podcast "99% Invisible" dedicated their latest episode, "An Architect's Code," to the questions raised by this petition. The podcast features interviews with ADPSR President Raphael Sperry, psychologist Terry Kupers, and Pelican Bay prisoner Robert Luca. The episode was co-produced with legal podcast "Life of the Law." Together these podcasts have an audience of over 13,000 fans. Check it out and remind your architect and non-architect friends to sign the petition.

      Episode 80- An Architect's Code

      Lawyers have an ethics code. Journalists have an ethics code. Architects do, too. According to Ethical Standard 1.4 of the American Institute of Architects (AIA): "Members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors." A group called Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) has taken the stance that there are some buildings that just should not have been built.

    11. AIA San Francisco chapter endorses ADPSR petition!

      Exciting news! The AIA San Francisco chapter has endorsed ADPSR's petition urging AIA (National) to amend their Code of Ethics to ban the design of execution chambers and supermax prisons. See their latest newsletter for the details:

      This is a good moment to share the campaign with your architect friends and acquaintances.

      ADPSR sends a big shout-out and thank you to AIASF for taking the time to consider our proposal and for understanding the profound ethical implications those buildings raise for our profession. AIASF represents more than 2,000 members in San Francisco and Marin County. We are honored to have their support.

      If you want to get your chapter of AIA to endorse ADPSR’s request, contact ADPSR President Raphael Sperry:

      ADPSR News

      ADPSR launches AIA Ethics Reform Petition Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) is asking the American Institute of Architects to amend its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to prohibit the design of spaces for torture and killing. In the United States, this comprises the design of execution chambers and super-maximum security prisons ("supermax"), which inflict torture through long-term solitary isolation.

    12. Reached 500 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Jason Hoobler GREEN HILLS, OH
      • 3 days ago

      Its shameful that moore's law allows preconceived propagation of HFT weaponization in everyday architecture by the panoptic precepts of surveillance society superstructure and its contiguous warfare on human living into the future.

    • Michael Zigmond PITTSBURGH, PA
      • 8 days ago

      As a neuroscientist I know only too well the impact of isolation. Even brief periods of solitary confinement can cause major changes in the brain and lead to mental and physical illness. Moreover, there is no evidence that it can produce any positive results. No society can be allowed to subject individuals to such torture. It is noteworthy that such housing is prohibited for laboratory animals except in limited instance in which the focus of the research is on the consequences of isolation. We treat out non-human animals better than our humans!

    • Sophia Garcia COVINA, UNITED STATES
      • 16 days ago

      Prison should be a place of rehabilitation and be capable of

      changing prisoners for the better, not merely a place of

      "punishment." Solitary confinement is torture and will never, help rehabilitate anyone.

    • Grant Folkman HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO
      • 20 days ago

      It is evil. I don't like evil

    • Patricia Edith ALAMEDA, CA
      • 28 days ago

      We have got to stop the mass incarceration of Americans that is dismanteling poor communities and elimanating vast number from the voting public. It is a disgrace and no one should be engaged in it.


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