The A&E System

Public Works and Private Interest in Architectural and Engineering Services, 2000–2020

What does architecture look like when studied through its public-private partnerships? Considering the increasing number of climate-related disasters requiring federally funded mitigation and response efforts, long-stalled infrastructure proposals, and heated debates about a "Green New Deal," “Green Stimulus,” or even “Green Reconstruction,” what what does this way of thinking reveal about the built environment's relationship to today's interconnected crises of mutual care, racial oppression, and climate? And what part do architects truly play?

Systems hide. Accordingly, these questions are not easy to answer. With this resource for students, teachers, and professionals of the arts and sciences of the built environment—soon to be downloadable here and available in full on Instagram at @a_and_e_system—the Buell Center aims to paint a provisional portrait of what we’re calling “The A&E System.” This system’s power is both well established and diffuse, which makes it both important and difficult to understand.

Pedagogical and professional institutions buttressing this system, however, have tended to shy away from this critical task in favor of a traditional focus on more narrowly construed notions of the disciplines of the built environment’s cultural and technical agency. Some aspects of the A&E System, which stretches from small, locally-focused firms to massive, multinational projects, will therefore be recognizable to readers, while others might seem less familiar, or perhaps even unrelated. By stitching together typically disconnected components of the system from federal procurement data, corporate case studies, and the world of public relations, we hope that what emerges might become more widely recognizable as a system in the present, and more susceptible to systemic change in the future.