CNN: Architect Demands His Association Prohibit Designing ... Torture Chambers

Moments ago, CNN published an op-ed by Raphael Sperry, who is introduced by CNN with the following bio:

Raphael Sperry is president of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit group that advocates for socially responsible design. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects and a Soros Justice Fellow.


Sperry’s piece is titled: “Architects and torture: What color is your waterboard?” He uses the piece to air his grievances with the American Institute of Architects, a professional association that has refused to add, according to Sperry, “specific language to its code of ethics that would prohibit the design of torture chambers in U.S. prisons and around the world.” Sperry claims there has been “years of advocacy and formal requests” to the AIA to do precisely this; as a source he links to this article in The Nation.

It appears that most of the advocacy on behalf of “social justice” causes within the field of architecture is coming only from Sperry’s aforementioned ADPSR.

Their most prominent cause appears to be forcing architects to no longer design “execution chambers and spaces for solitary confinement.” Indeed, Sperry devotes a substantial part of his op-ed to solitary confinement.

Writes Sperry:

Despite years of advocacy and formal requests, the AIA — which claims as its members a majority of the roughly 110,000 architects in the United States — has officially declined to add specific language to its code of ethics that would prohibit the design of torture chambers in U.S. prisons and around the world. In doing so, it cites anti-trust concerns and the potential difficulty of enforcing the prohibition, but it ignores the claims of human rights. (emphasis added)


The “potential difficulty” noted by the AIA is a rational, diplomatic response to Sperry’s campaign. He has obviously devoted significant energy to this cause, yet the logical outcome of such a campaign is an absolute failure to affect anything related to torture. If the U.S. government chooses to continue with enhanced interrogation, language within an architecture professional association’s bylaws is not the slightest speed bump.

Sperry knows this. He must know this.



His campaign is about his conscience, the esteem related to being part of what he views as a moral cause. He demonstrates the transparency of all similar “awareness” campaigns, an act of vanity proffered as a useful advance for a cause. If Sperry truly wanted to put an end to waterboarding, he would take a tack that actually stood to end the practice.

Rationally, he’s wasting his time unless his true goal is to advance his own professional and public stature. And so goes the life of the social justice warriors, affecting nothing but their memories.


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