Using Our “Muscle Memory” to Champion a Slave-Free Future

Hayes Slade
Former president, AIA
Co-Founder and Principal, Hayes Slade Architecture

As an architect and former President of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIANY), I know how our profession yearns to incorporate equity in our practice. For starters, the AIA ethics code requires us to deliver our craft to “enhance and facilitate human dignity and health safety and welfare”. I have seen how seriously most of us in the profession take that mandate. For many, it is the potential for improving the conditions we find ourselves in that drives us to the profession in the first place.

Slavery is the most extreme form of inequity. It is the most extreme violation of human dignity, safety and welfare.  

The design and building professions have successfully confronted inequities before. For example, this year, we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Through our concerted effort, consideration of accessibility has become the norm in the built environment. There are improvements to be taken in this regard, but great strides have been made. However, just as we as a profession for too long ignored how people with disabilities experience our designs, the fact that forced labor is still part of our global supply chain  

is something we need to face and address in every arena in which we act. The indisputable evil of enslavement makes it difficult to understand as a contemporary problem, rather than “comfortably” understanding it as a terrible relic of the past. We must resist that temptation; eradicating forced labor will require maintaining a concerted and focused effort.