The Architecture Lobby

Peggy Dreamer

In July of 2013, the Architecture Lobby held its first meeting. Those gathered in Brooklyn— thirteen in all—had identified their frustrations with the profession of architecture: how hard architects and designers worked for little reward, debt taken on during school, projects that rarely had social relevance, firms that did not pay interns or overtime, offices with sexist protocols, impossible work-life balance, and lack of support from the American Institute of Architects.

This sharing of frustrations did not yield specific actions, but it did identify that the problem lay at the feet of all the actors in an architectural project: the public, or clients who don’t understand the profession and pay accordingly; firm owners who don’t negotiate good fees and hence pass down insufficient wages; and firm employees who believe that they are lucky to work for almost nothing. The group realized the need to hold meetings every third week, a policy that the New York chapter of the Lobby still follows. By the second meeting (still in Brooklyn) we had our name. By the fifth (at the office of any firm that would host us), we identified the content for our website—three declarations for each of the three constituents (public, firm owners, staff). By the eighth, we had people outside the NYC area calling in.

Anxious to find a “cause” that would announce our presence and our concerns, we used the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale as a venue with a relevant and captive audience. Two Lobby members in Venice turned the nine points of the website declaration into our ten-point Manifesto and, part protest and part performance, made public our demand for change in the profession. The Manifesto has since been the road map for our actions. We now have ten chapters across the country.