Dezeen Magazine

The Statue of Liberty in New York was named a World Heritage Site in 1984
The Statue of Liberty in New York was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984

AIA urges Trump to continue UNESCO's architecture and design initiatives after withdrawal

The American Institute of Architects has declared its support for UNESCO after the US announced it is pulling out of the organisation, and encouraged President Donald Trump's administration to preserve initiatives that "reinforce the value and importance of architecture and design".

The AIA released a statement yesterday highlighting the importance of UNESCO, following the US Department of State announcement last week that it would be withdrawing from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), due to "the need for fundamental reform in the organisation".

After leaving, the US will act as a non-member observer state that contributes "views, perspectives and expertise" to UNESCO's key issues.

The AIA emphasised the need for continued protection of world heritage sites listed by UNESCO, and urged Trump's government to pursue other cultural programmes.

"The American Institute of Architects has long supported the cultural mission of UNESCO, and especially its World Heritage Sites programme, which seeks to identify and preserve buildings and places of exceptional importance to humankind," said AIA president Thomas Vonier in the statement.

"We hope and expect that the United States will continue to work with global stakeholders to protect such sites."

The statement also "urges the administration to lend its support" to a new initiative, which will see UNESCO team up with International Union of Architects to name World Capital of Architecture every few years. It said that this "effort will reinforce the value and importance of architecture and design in human affairs".

The US Department of State said that its decision to leave UNESCO was the result of a series of problems, but particularly the body's "continuing anti-Israel bias". Shortly after the announcement, Israel declared that it would also be withdrawing.

The withdrawal, which will officially take place on 31 December 2018, follows a number of difficulties between the United Nations-backed organisation and the US. The country stopped funding UNESCO in 2011 after the body approved the full membership of Palestine, which breached an amendment that stated the US would not financially contribute to any United Nations organisation that accepted the disputed Middle Eastern state.

This will be the second time the US leaves UNESCO – President Ronald Reagan withdrew the country in 1984. The country rejoined again in 2002 under the leadership of George W Bush.

The AIA originally pledged support for Trump after his election win last November, but quickly apologised after a backlash from its members. The group has since issued several statements declaring opposition to the president's proposals, including the climate treaty withdrawal and his immigration policies.