Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Declaration of Boston

At last June's AIA/ACSA Cranbrook Teachers' Academy (and by the way, if you want to see social class on the ground, there's no better hour than the trip from the Detroit airport to Bloomfield Hills and Cranbrook...), we spent a fair bit of time looking at whether architecture had an ethical basis. Once I got home, I looked at the AIA code of professional conduct, which is mostly about not cheating your clients and horning in on other architects' turf. But I also came across the Declaration of Geneva, which is an internationally used statement of ethical principles in medicine. I've made appropriate modifications in content but not in spirit, and have called it the Declaration of Boston. Here it is:

I SOLEMNLY PLEDGE to consecrate my life:
to the service of social justice;
to the stewardship of the environment;
to the protection of public health and safety;
to the promotion of aesthetic delight; and
to my clients’ organizational effectiveness.

I WILL PRACTICE my profession with conscience and dignity.
I WILL GIVE to my colleagues the respect and gratitude that is their due.
I WILL HOLD the welfare of the community as my first consideration.
I WILL RESPECT the secrets that are confided in me, even after my client has died.
I WILL MAINTAIN by all the means in my power, the honor and the noble traditions of the design professions.
I WILL NOT PERMIT considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to preclude me from carrying out my responsibilities.
I WILL NOT USE my knowledge to violate human rights, civil liberties, or community well-being, even under threat.

I MAKE THESE PROMISES solemnly, freely and upon my honor.

So -- who's ready to sign? And if you're not, what are your reservations about it?


Rick E said...

I would definately sign this document. The only part that gave me pause at all was the part of maintaining secrets. Priests and lawyers are obligated to do this by thier codes and protected from prosecution for withholding secrets. I am guessing that the courts would simply throw the architect trying to uphold this principle into jail.

Stacey Stevens said...

I'm in,I think it is a good idea. Architects are not considered as important as doctors but we have a common important interest: to protect. Doctors protect against diseases and architects protect against weather conditions. I might be biased but architects should receive more credit.

I am going to hang up a copy of the Declaration I received in Boston tomorrow and see what kind of responses I get. I am curious to find out what other people in the office think.

David Streebin said...

When this was handed this out in class, I studied every line and thought I could probably take the oath. Since spending the last three weeks reading and discussing society and how we can influence it, I know I could. Thanks Herb for making us think more about the way we design. Not necessarily the aesthetics of the design, but how we can design for the betterment of society.

Rick notes keeping secretes as a possible problem. I think we have to keep them especially if you are designing in specialized markets. You may be designing buildings for two competing clients and you need to keep each clients “trade secrets”…. secret.

Stacy hanging a copy of the declaration up in the office is a great idea. I think I will do the same and report back!

Scott Pfeifer said...

I would love to say that I can sign this document. After all, I follow most of the items contained within already in my life. There are a couple clarifications that would need to be made before I can sign and truly believe that I am abiding by the intent of the words contained within this document.

The first such clarification revolves around the phrase “Aesthetic Delight”. Who determines “Aesthetic Delight”? If the person making this determination is the architect signing the declaration or their client for which the building is designed, I would have no problems on this end.

The second clarification is “I WILL HOLD the welfare of the community as my first consideration.” While I agree with this item and want to think this is possible in every situation. Will there be times when the first consideration could be the clients, not the communities? If the first consideration was always the community, there wouldn’t be any controversial projects. The welfare of the community may not always be evident. But as long as you do your best, it probably still works for me.

I will sign the documents with these caveats.

Gus G.-Angulo said...

Very much related to what I want research for, I think this declaration is a great way to hold us accountable not just with others but with ourselves! And then again, I need to answer the question WHY?!!! Why I will like to do something like this?!!!
I can see the great effort that might come with it, the troubles with the clients and the “hard path” that this might bring, but I can see as well the tremendous potential that will bring to our community, profession, our clients and us as individuals.
I will pass this info in the office and tell you latter the reactions that I got form it (like Stacy!)
I agree with Scott, but I might add that the reason sometime we don’t do what the client wants, comes with the premise that we need to “educate” the client and let him see the pros and cons of doing something that might not be an “immediate value” to him/ her, but that in a long term will be beneficial for him / her by securing the community where he / she lives in and adding the value – benefit the he / she was looking for initially.

Amr Raafat said...

Universal principals that no one can resist.

Am I ready to sign it and take the responsibility?
the answer is obviously NO.

I am glad I am not a doctor or a lawyer who would have to sign this!
Not because I would forget a towel in the patient stomach during a surgery.
or give secrets of my clients to press, but because its much harder to do that than doing the right thing.

All the Declaration is an obvious common sense that a someone signature wont add or subtract from it.

Its a part of a successful Architect, Journalist, teacher....etc

The mistake then wont be in the declaration but in me.

Its huge responsibility that I would never reach to fulfill it all, I would work hard for it though!

I will print the Declaration of Boston and put it on my desk, hope that when my eyes looks at it, my hands, tongue remember and follow it. with no signature.

Matt Anderle said...

I am ready to sign! I might not have the knowledge to successfully achieve all the obligations of this declaration, but I understand what they mean and I feel I can institute these ideas around my office and with my fellow peers.

I too will hang this document in my office and leave a comment page for others to share ideas. Hopefully in a day or so I'll have something to scan and share with everyone.

Jaclyn said...

Posting this in the office is a great idea Stacey! I think I'm ready to sign and was ready to sign until I read Scott's statements as well as Amr's. They both bring out some good points. What if we believe we are following this to the T but someone else begs to differ? Who is the one who will decide whether it has been followed or not? Will we be "disbarred" if we slip up slightly in someone else's eyes? Do we get to defend ourselves regarding the choices we have made or actions we have taken? I have to think about this some more. Thanks guys for making me step back and read this even more. I will post it in my office also.

Kara Meissner said...

Jaclyn has raised some good points. If someone believes that I have not upheld my oath I would like to think that due to our judiciary system that I will be allowed to defend myself.
When I first read this declaration I felt then, as I do now, that this is an important document. I am impressed by the number that will post this document in the office and
I am eager to hear of the responses. I agree with Scott on the question of community vs. the client; perhaps this should be reviewed. It would be a shame to lose creative license in order to uphold these declarations. Ultimately I believe the conversation this document will provoke will prove to be greatest achievement.

Angelo Logan said...

After re-reading the declaration, and reading a few comments, I would definitely sign it. Even though wording isn't exactly as we may like, I beleive the intent of the declaration is clearly evident.

My thoughts are at this point there truly isn't anything like this in our profession, so we are only held accountable when "legally" there are problems (i.e. loss of life). Perhaps if the profession adopted this, or a modified, declaration we would have fewer non-architects passing themselves off as architects (i.e. design-build contractors).

Carlos said...

I think everyone in all professions should sign this document. Architects, Teachers, Doctors, Firefighters,Police Officers, POLITICIANS! As an architect the document would be there as a reminder that we will be designing buildings for people and we are responsable for the safety and enjoyment of the buildings we design. And like Stacey stated before I would sign it and take to my office.

annie said...

I discussed the declaration with my bosses today. We all agreed that the basic idea is great. One of the architects focuses on legal issues. He suggested the addition of the word safety to the welfare of the community. The service of social justice also brought up some interesting points. Who is defining social justice? Hitler, Lincoln, Bush? We also agreed with Scott on the needs of the individual may be the better good, not the community. We also had a good laugh about my clients' organizational effectiveness. Working with many residential clients, the clients' organizational effectiveness is very difficult to achieve! Organization of space for the client, that we can do. The ideas presented in the Declaration of Boston are great. It is now hanging in our office. I would sign this document (with just a few minor changes and clarifications.) It is a great place to start.

Gus G.-Angulo said...

Very interesting!!! This is one of the several comments I received after passing the Declaration of Boston (from Dr. Childress). It created “uproar” and it was fascinating to discuss with the coworkers. So may different points of view their approaches to it so different. How ever I found a common point: few wanted to “commit” to it but less were willing to sign it! (they were afraid of the liability!)

Gus G.-Angulo said...

The scanned comment is in my blog site!

Tim Riffle said...

I wouldn't have any problem signing a document that is only stating what architects should already be doing. Like others I wonder who would be in charge of deciding whether the principles were followed.
We have can all read the same declaration but as this post shows, we all have a slightly different interpretation of it.

David Streebin said...

I have read this declaration several times and now after reading everyone's comments, I read it again. As Tim says, people interpret this differently and the statement "I WILL HOLD the welfare of the community as my first consideration" seems to be one that is questionable. I believe we should be doing this already as my interpretation is that our "client" is part of that "community". I read it that we are not to let the design support our own agenda/ego. We should design for the community/client and not for our own ego. Both can be accomplished, with the community first! Have a great holiday weekend (studying) everyone.

Eddie Alvarado said...

Signing the declaration will be a great honor. Some of us already practice portions of the declaration within our duties and responsibilities with our clients and society. I would include a clause for the Architect to promise for the development of the profession as societies and cultures evolve. A never ending research of materials and technologies to further enhance spaces occupied by all. I think this will separate the egos of design from the ones researching for advancement to the next era.

The Architect's role in society is greater than a lot of people realize, the impact we could create in communities, cities, economies, etc. I believe this declaration should be based on honor.

smunger said...

If we all sign this who will be left to make strip malls?