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Death Chambers: Legal Issues for Architects


Architects have a duty to promote the safety and welfare of the public. Their buildings, roads, bridges and other creations cannot be inherently dangerous. They cannot create things that will intentionally harm others or else they could face punishment such as fines and license suspension.

So what happens when architects are asked to create something meant to kill, such as a death chamber? The American Institute of Architects recently spoke up, stating that members are prohibited from designing spaces meant for torture or execution. Even an area meant for an extended period of solitary confinement would fit in under this new rule.

In the past, the American Institute of Architects took the stance that architects were not responsible for the acts that took place in the buildings they designed. The institute had been asked to stop allowing the creation of death chambers many times, but upheld its stance to not condemn members who chose to do so, since the death penalty is legal in the United States. Just last year, the institute claimed that designing an execution chamber should not result in punishment of a member, since it “reflects conduct that is sanctioned by society in those jurisdictions where capital punishment has been adopted as the law of the land.”

However, that has since changed. The institute has been slammed by promoting business over human rights, Plus, with the killing of George Floyd earlier this year, the institute is now focusing on equality and human rights. The American Institute of Architects consulted with many organizations, including the Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, to come to its decision.

American Institute of Architects members must “uphold the health, safety and welfare of the public,” so by creating spaces meant for execution and torture, they are going against those values, which can lead to an unethical situation. This is especially true since these death chambers are meant to execute a high number of African Americans. By designing a death chamber, architects are thereby contributing to violence against minorities, which is going against their values.

Under the new rules, American Institute of Architects members are prohibited from designing spaces in which humans are placed in solitary confinement without human contact for more than 22 hours a day, and for more than 15 consecutive days. An architect who knowingly creates such a space could face punishment, including license loss.

Keep Your License With Help From a Tampa Architect Licensing Lawyer

Architects are licensed to create buildings that promote the safety and welfare of humans. Death chambers do the exact opposite, so this is a true ethical issue for the industry. Should they be asked to create something that can kill others?

Architects and other licensed professionals face such ethical issues all the time. Are you doing the right thing? Tampa architect licensing lawyer David P. Rankin can guide you through your administrative matters and help you keep your license. Schedule a consultation by calling (813) 968-6633 or filling out the online form.