May 1, 2017 - The Architecture Lobby - Just Practices
e-flux Architecture
May 1, 2017
May 1, 2017

The Architecture Lobby

Photo: Don McPhedran, 1963.

Just Practices

Phase one submission deadline: July 15, 2017
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Pinned on the corridor wall of the Law School at Yale University is a list entitled "Top 10 Family Friendly Law Firms."  While clearly meant as a guide for graduating students, law firms crawl over each other to get on this list to attract the School's best and brightest. Why would one never see a list like this—one that systematically weighed labor, wage, benefit, and promotion policies—in an architecture school? Would graduating architects not care about whether a potential employer was “family friendly”? Is it that architecture firms didn't have to recruit because they could get who they wanted without this sort of ranking? Is it that we don’t know how to collect the data, on either the firms or the grads? Do students, best or not, not think of themselves as in demand? These questions indicate how different disciplines leading to different professions make such different assumptions about entering the work force.

In 2014, The Architecture Lobby resolved that a comprehensive survey was needed to determine both how different firms approached architectural labor and how workers and owners evaluated job satisfaction. Instead of acting as a downer looking for bad news, we decided to produce a "wall of fame": to make public both the concept of "just practice" and the firms that practiced it. A two-stage process for certification was devised, the first being a questionnaire that would be sent to employees to see who worked at admirable firm—the nomination phase—and the second being authentication with the "nominated" firms regarding their policies—the verification phase. For the questionnaire we identified six categories that covered the varied issues affecting architectural labor: Family Friendly, Fair Pay, Legal Labor Practices, Gender and Ethnic Diversity, Transparency, and Agency. Each categories’ questions would be applicable to both employees in the nomination phase, and with slight modification, for owners in the verification phase. We recognize that the variety of firm types makes statistical equivalence impossible, but relative attention to worker-friendly issues should still be revealed in the two-stage vetting. Those firms that warrant positive exposure and certification will have a case study profile and join a list of “just practices.” Each firm will be re-reviewed annually, and others added in an ongoing fashion.

In October of 2016 The Architecture Lobby combined forces with Equity in Design, the Yale School of Architecture women's group, and quickly thereafter, Harvard's GSD's Women in Design. After the 4th Annual Symposium of Equity by Design (EQxD), a group within the American Institute of Architects San Francisco chapter, "Metrics, Meaning and Matrices," during which their "Equity in Architecture 2016 Survey" was unveiled, we sought institutional support from Michael Monti, the Executive Director of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), who kindly volunteered his survey team to help with questionnaire analyses. We are furthermore indebted to SEED Network and ArchiteXX for their endorsement and advise of this endeavor. We hope that other organizations will want to have their names associated with this important endeavor. We assume, in the meanwhile, that the obviousness of the need for sustainable practices and just labor firms will be incentive enough for architects to engage.

Today we launch the Just Practices questionnaire. The website,, contains the phase one employee questionnaire. Submissions must be completed by July 15 when analysis and phase two firm verification will begin. On November 15, the website will profile those firms deemed to provide outstanding work environment models. The more comprehensive the data we collect and the more robust the responses to the questionnaire, the more intelligent our recommended list of firms will be. Please take ten minutes to respond to the nomination questionnaire.

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