Climate activist group Architects Climate Action Network has called on Foster + Partners to pull out of a controversial new private airport in Saudi Arabia – or resign as a signatory of the Architects Declare movement.
In a letter to Foster + Partners, ACAN said the architect should withdraw its involvement with Amaala, a luxury resort on the Red Sea coast, where it is designing a private airport terminal and control tower.
Architects "should not be working to expand aviation"
"Our network strongly believes that UK architecture practices should not be working to expand aviation in the midst of this climate emergency," the letter states.
ACAN said Foster + Partners should "pause [its] involvement in aviation expansion until such time as the sector has achieved carbon neutrality."
Last month Amaala unveiled Foster + Partners' "mirage-inspired" design for an international airport at the huge Saudi resort, with is set amid 4,155 square kilometres of land in the Prince Mohammad bin Salman Natural Reserve.
Foster + Partners has come under fire for designing the private airport in Saudi Arabia
The airport, which will exclusively serve the luxury resort, is expected to open in 2023 and handle a million passengers per year.
Masterplanned by engineering consultancy Egis, the airport will feature "climate-controlled hangars that will be available for private jets".
Foster's involvement in the project at a time of growing awareness of the need to decarbonise the global economy has generated controversy.
Foster + Partners should "consider stepping down from Architects Declare"
ACAN said the project is incompatible with the London architect's position as a founding signatory of Architects Declare, a network of practices supposedly committed to tackling the climate emergency.
"As a founding signatory of Architects Declare you have publicly proclaimed that we are in the midst of a climate emergency, which poses an existential threat to much of life on this planet," says ACAN's letter.
"If you are unwilling to relinquish your involvement in aviation expansion and find yourselves unable to reconcile these projects with the [Architects Declare] declaration points, we suggest that you consider stepping down from Architects Declare for the time being, in order to safeguard the integrity and credibility of the initiative," the letter says.
ACAN describes itself as "a network of individuals within architecture and related built environment professions taking action to address the twin crises of climate and ecological breakdown."
Architects Declare has "principle of not naming and shaming"
The organisation emerged out of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London last year and takes a more proactive stance than Architects Declare, which last week said it would not take action against signatories that worked on projects that contradicted their climate pledges.
"We have a principle of not naming and shaming our colleagues in the industry," Architects Declare said in response to the controversy over Foster's involvement in the Amaala project. "The onus should be on signatories to live up to the pledges they have made."
Architects Declare was launched in May last year in the hope of triggering a "shift in behaviour" in construction and buildings, which are responsible for around 40 per cent of global carbon emissions. Founding signatories include Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects and Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners.
Originally a UK movement, Architects Declare now has signatories in over 20 countries around the world.
Located on Saudi Arabia's northwestern coast, the private Amaala resort will feature 2,500 hotel rooms and more than 800 villas and apartments and estate homes plus 200 luxury stores spread between three distinct developments called Triple Bay, Coastal Development and The Island.
The aviation sector is responsible for an estimated 4.9 per cent of global carbon emissions. Passenger numbers are predicted to double to 8.2 billion a year by 2037.
The full text of ACAN's letter to Foster + Partners is below:
Dear Foster + Partners,
RE: Recently announced new Amaala resort airport
We’re writing to you as Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN), a network of individuals within architecture and related built environment professions taking action to address the climate and ecological crises. Following the announcement of your Amaala resort airport, we are concerned about this project and your continuing involvement in aviation expansion.
Our network strongly believes that UK architecture practices should not be working to expand aviation in the midst of this climate emergency. Aviation is an extremely carbon-intensive mode of transport. Expanding aviation capacity cannot be reconciled with meaningful action to achieve the rapid global decarbonisation that is urgently required. The way humans are living on this planet is fundamentally unsustainable and pursuing a business as usual approach will not bring about the change that we all know is necessary.
As a founding signatory of Architects Declare you have publicly proclaimed that we are in the midst of a climate emergency, which poses an existential threat to much of life on this planet. You have made pledges including to “Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach.”
As such, ACAN respectfully ask that you:
1. Withdraw your involvement in the Amaala resort airport. 2. Pause your involvement in aviation expansion until such time as the sector has achieved carbon neutrality.
If a practice of your status, influence and renown were to walk away from aviation expansion, this would have a significant impact and send a compelling message about the urgent need to scale back the most extreme forms of extractivism.
If you decide to continue with this project and aviation expansion more broadly, we wish to know how you are reconciling that position with your Architects Declare commitments and the global imperative for rapid decarbonisation. We invite you to open a dialogue with us on these matters.
If you are unwilling to relinquish your involvement in aviation expansion and find yourselves unable to reconcile these projects with the declaration points, we suggest that you consider stepping down from Architects Declare for the time being, in order to safeguard the integrity and credibility of the initiative.
Fundamentally this letter invites you to consider what your role will be in this extraordinary historical moment. Will you continue with business as usual, enabling a system that is pushing life on earth closer to the brink of disaster? Or, will you find the leadership and courage to make some difficult and uncomfortable decisions?
Whether or not humanity is equal to the task of contending with this crisis may depend in large part upon the cumulative effect of many such decisions. We hope that you will consider the above carefully before deciding how to proceed.
We very much look forward to your response.