Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility

Raphael Sperry


Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) was founded in 1981 as a voice for architects and design professionals opposing the threat of nuclear war and the militarism of the Reagan administration. Groups of concerned people in the design world soon found each other in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities, and then the groups united to create a national nonprofit organization with a regular newsletter, chapter meetings, and a national board of directors. ADPSR even formed an international association, ARC-Peace, with representatives from Europe, Japan, and other countries.

ADPSR seeks out creative, nonviolent means for raising public awareness and demanding changes in public policy, always from the perspective of designers. An early poster for “Architects for Social Responsibility” (before fellow professions were added) called attention to the stark consequences of a nuclear exchange not only on human life but all of humanity’s cultural achievements—including architecture. A mid-’80s design competition for a bomb shelter mocked the idea that backyard shelters—which the government encouraged at that time—could make any difference. Entries included an “Emperor’s New Clothes” model of an ideal shelter, which was just a blank page. The collection of entries was published under the title “Quonset Huts on the River Styx: the Bomb Shelter Design Book.” ADPSR also arranged an exchange of visits with architects in the Soviet Union, showing through “citizen diplomacy” that even though our two countries’ governments were openly hostile, the people of the two countries themselves could work together peacefully and develop professional and personal collaborations. ADPSR remains active today around issues of human rights and social justice, especially in critiquing the US prison system.