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ACAN Open Letter to Foster + Partners

July 2020

The question of involvement in airports has often been difficult for architects to answer when it comes to debate around the climate emergency. Following the announcement of Foster + Partners Amaala Airport in Saudi Arabia we polled our network to ask them what their thoughts were. The answer we received was a clear majority opposed to this scheme and expansion of aviation projects in general. Our first action from this was to send an open letter to Foster + Partners to voice ACAN's concerns and open up a dialogue about this project.


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.

Yours sincerely




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