Erosion of faith.
Smartphones (yes, smartphones).
Cultural sickness (whatever that encompasses).
Following the Uvalde school shooting, all the above were excuses trotted out for why the shooting happened. One conspiracy theory that was promoted by some Congress members even had the shooter being transgender.
However, leave it to Texas senator Ted Cruz to find the real culprit: the school. Apparently, schools have too many doors. In several news interviews, he commented that schools should have one door in, and one door out with multiple armed officers at that door. Because while that would create a myriad list of general safety issues and building code violations, just having one entrance would fix things for sure.
And we continued to hear that in the days and weeks afterwards from other politicians, even from former president Trump at the NRA conference in Houston the week after the shooting. Not that Cruz came up with anything original in his espousing. After the Santa Fe, Texas high school shooting, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made a similar statement, saying there were too many entrances and exits on school campuses and reiterated that idea following Uvalde.
Except architecture isn’t the issue nor is it the solution.
However, instead of tackling the harder issue of access to guns while still trying to respect the basic ideas laid out in the Second Amendment, politicians approach school shootings as a problem with the infrastructure. Time and again we hear about “hardening” schools with metal detectors, fencing, and armed guards as different means to keep children safe.
Except architecture isn’t the issue.
School shootings have nothing to do with architecture or school design, and politicians know it. What they do have in common is a lack of political will to stand up to the gun lobby and say stop handing out guns from your semiautomatic PEZ dispenser. And yes, issues like mental health probably have a hand in what’s happening, but politicians need to start addressing the belief that Americans need to arm themselves to the teeth.
Unfortunately, my own professional organization, The American Institute of Architects, isn’t helping to push back on the notion that schools need to be fortresses or better designed to withstand violence from a shooter. In 2018, AIA announced they were launching initiatives to help address school violence.
However, it’s hard to take that seriously when one of their primary goals was to make “architectural and design services for schools an allowable use of funds within existing federal funding and grants…” Instead of pushing back on leaders to take on the issue of gun violence, one can easily look at their initiative as simply a means for the AIA to obtain more design fees for their members.
And architects aren’t exactly contributing to the conversation that schools don’t need to be hardened. Sandy Hook Elementary was rebuilt incorporating anti-terror measures in the design. Another firm designed a curved, bullet-resistant school in Los Angeles.
Firm and organization leaders should be pushing back on politicians to allow architects to focus on creating positive learning environments. Places where teachers can teach, and students can thrive. Not fortresses where traumatized students are taught which areas are designed for hiding when a shooter comes through the doors.
Because architecture isn’t the issue.
No matter what Ted Cruz might think.