Dezeen Magazine

US newspaper apologises for offensive "Buildings Matter, Too" headline on column by architecture critic

The Philadelphia Inquirer has apologised for a headline equating the loss of black lives with damage to buildings during protests over the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

A column by its architecture critic about the destruction of Philadelphia's buildings during the protests was published on Tuesday 2 June under the headline "Buildings Matter, Too".

The Philadelphia Inquirer issued an apology for the story after journalists of colour at the newspaper penned an open letter in which they said they were "sick and tired of not being heard".

Headline was "offensive"

"The headline published in Tuesday's Inquirer was offensive, inappropriate and we should not have printed it," said the daily newspaper in its apology.

"We deeply regret that we did," it wrote in a leader signed by executive editor Stan Wischnowski, editor Gabriel Escobar and managing editor Patrick Kerkstra. Wischnowski later resigned over the incident.

"An Inquirer headline suggested an equivalence between the loss of buildings and the lives of black Americans. That is unacceptable," they wrote.

"We also know that an apology on its own is not sufficient," they added. "We need to do better. We've heard that loud and clear, including from our own staff. We will."

The newspaper apologised for the "Buildings Matter, Too" headline

The column was written by the newspaper's in-house architecture critic Inga Saffron, who has been at the publication since in 1999.

"I did not write the headline," Saffron told Dezeen. "A copyeditor did. Not to excuse matters, the story was shifted from its original page at the very last minute."

The paper has edited the headline and it now reads: "Damaging buildings disproportionately hurts the people protesters are trying to uplift".

"Virtually every retail space in that area was damaged or looted"

Saffron said that in Philadelphia, where she is based, many stores and shops in the downtown area have been damaged during the protests. She voiced concern about this violence in her column, although some "were hit after I wrote my piece".

"It was concern about this kind of destruction that prompted me to write the column," added Saffron, who earlier this year wrote a column for Dezeen about Rem Koolhaas' Countryside exhibition. "Virtually every retail space in that area was damaged or looted."

For over a week, protests demanding an end to racism and police brutality against black people have erupted in cities across the US following Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis.

The movement has adopted the slogan Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the Inquirer's headline was a riff on this.

Architects and designers have voiced their shame and anger at racial inequality. "As a predominantly white profession, we recognise that we have contributed to this pain," wrote leaders of the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The National Organization of Minority Architects demanded an end to the "deadly and pervasive virus called racism that has plagued America".