Our Reaction to the George Floyd Murder

Now is the time to stand up for what you believe. It is clearly apparent that staying silent will not change the world we live in, and the world we live in clearly needs to change. Systemic racism and bigotry was and is at the foundation of what this country was built on. Centuries of deprivation and degradation to countless generations of African Americans has taken an unimaginable toll on the African American community. The horrific murder of George Floyd is not a culmination of our deep-seated dysfunctional social systems. Rather, it is another appalling and horrifying chapter in our American society of inequality, disrespect, and hate. We at The Sheward Partnership can no longer stay silent. We can no longer hope for the best. We can no longer turn a deaf ear. The first thing we need to do is listen. We have taken this time to listen to other voices and to evaluate our role in society. We don’t have a lot of answers, but having an honest and open dialogue is our first step.

The Minnesota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) wrote a statement that resonated with us. As architects and designers, we talk a lot about the design process. We talk a lot about answering the question of where we want our design to take us. Right now we are asking ourselves the same questions about where we want our society to take us. The truth is, we really can’t get to that place until we honestly know where we want to go. Here are some parts of the Minnesota AIA statement that begins to answer that question:


by the Presidents, President-Elects, Immediate Past Presidents and EVP/Executive Director of AIA Minnesota, AIA Minneapolis, AIA St. Paul and AIA Northern Minnesota

We grieve and protest the murder of George Floyd.

We see the soul-deep exhaustion and pain of the Black members of our architecture community and of our broader communities.

And we realize the weight of this hurt is not just because the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer was so inhumane, so merciless – it is because of the ever-evolving and unrelenting racism in daily life; the layers of disrespect, discrimination, and degradation built up over years, decades, generations, and centuries. As a predominantly White profession and organization, and as individuals, we recognize that through our own actions and inactions, through our own lack of care and courage, we have contributed to this exhaustion and pain.

We own our responsibility for doing too little in the past and needing to do so much more in the future to address the systemic inequities that pervade all aspects of life and work in Minnesota, including the practice of architecture.

People matter more than buildings. This must always be so.

We are also saddened by the destruction happening in the cities we love. We know, better than most, that buildings are extensions of people. Buildings are designed – by architects – to serve particular human needs. Buildings are designed – by architects – to protect the health, safety and welfare of those who enter them and those whose neighborhoods they become woven into…

…Our brokenness is on display to the world. Peaceful and sustained appeals to our shared humanity and our moral compass following the deaths of Philando Castile, Jamar Clark and so many others did not change us enough. If the video showing five excruciating minutes of George Floyd dying and the destruction of the built environment we feel such responsibility for does not change us, what will?

“Architects believe they can change the world.” When this is said, it is often with cynicism. Yet, there is another way to say it: “Architects believe we can change the world.” What comes next in the wake of all that has happened depends upon us shedding our cynicism and lifting up what we already know: that the best of the built environment, the best of any product, system, or community, has always been the result of deep collaboration; and that the more diverse, equitable and inclusive the collaboration, the more creative and lasting the solutions. Instead of architects assuming we know what is right and jumping in to assert our experience, expertise and good intentions, we need to step back, listen and be ready to learn, unlearn, and adapt.

Rebuilding what’s been lost is impossible – and it’s the wrong goal. The buildings, systems, and relationships that existed before came about through design and construction. Before rebuilding, the architecture community must join with others in rethinking, reimagining, and redesigning what’s next. Together, we can change our communities and ourselves for the better. But this will only be true if we reckon with our shared history, if we keep our hearts from hardening, and if we move forward with resolve and humility.


David Scheuermann, Principal & Michael Sheward, Principal