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The Mapping Project

HDR Architecture

HDR is an architecture and design firm with locations around the world, including in Boston. HDR has worked on architectural projects for Israel on occupied Palestinian land, has designed over 275 prisons in the US, has held contracts totaling billions of dollars with the US military, and has worked with multiple state governments to monitor and repress Indigenous land defenders and other BIPOC activists.

Supporting Israel and the US military

HDR has derived millions of dollars from US Department of Defense contracts for architectural work in "Israel," contributing to the build-up of Israeli settler infrastructure on occupied Palestinian land. One DoD contract worth $363,918 committed HDR to provide services for the "NEGBA FIRING RANGE." While this DoD contract states "LOCATION IS NOT DISCLOSED," we may assume based on its name that this firing range HDR designed is somewhere in or near Israel's Negba settlement located in the Naqab Desert. Israel's Negba settlement part of the broader pattern of Israel's build-up of military infrastructure in the Naqab Desert, home to Palestinian Bedouin communities who suffer the environmental and material consequences of Israel's concentration of military infrastructure on and around their land.

Additionally, this $2.2 million DoD contract, this $831,051 DoD contract, and this $967,850 DoD grant each committed HDR to provide services related to a "STATUS OF FORCES AGREEMENT" (SOFA) in Israel. As explained in this report from US Congressional Research Service, Status of Forces Agreements "generally establish the framework under which U.S. military personnel operate in a foreign country and how domestic laws of the foreign jurisdiction apply toward U.S. personnel in that country." Accordingly, HDR's support for US DoD SOFAs in Israel can be understood not only as an economic boon to the Zionist settler project, but also as part of the build-up of US military infrastructure on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land to support US objectives of control and hegemony within the region. Additionally, HDR has a business office on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land.

HDR is also a major US military contractor. To date, HDR has derived $2.02 billion through US Department of Defense (DoD) contracts for the provision of products and services to the US military. Amongst HDR's business ties with the US military are a series of contracts collectively totaling tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to support the build-up of US military infrastructure in Afghanistan, following the US invasion and two-decades long occupation of Afghanistan. See for example this $63.6 million DoD contract committing HDR to complete work for the US military in Afghanistan from 2012-14.

Designing US prisons and jails

HDR has designed over 275 prisons and jails across the United States. HDR was contracted by the state of Massachusetts to provide design and architectural support for MA's $45 million project to construct the Middleton Jail and House of Correction in Middleton, MA. In 2019, the state of Massachusetts announced another $50 million project to construct a new women's prison at the Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk MA, which would replace the state's dangerous and crumbling MCI-Framingham facility. In 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance selected HDR from among the architectural firms seeking the contract from the state for the "study and design" of this new women's prison in Norfolk, and in June 2021 the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance signed a contract with HDR for the project.

In its bid for the contract for the "study and design" of the state of MA's new prison in Norfolk, HDR attempted to characterize its vision for the new prison as "trauma-informed," a characterization which community members rejected as a crass and offensive attempt to whitewash over the violent realities of caging human beings. Leslie Credle, who was incarcerated for five years at the MCI-Framingham, stated in response to HDR's bid for the contract:

There’s no such thing as trauma-informed care in prison. I say that because the atmosphere and environment inside prisons is toxic. When you first walk through the door, you are automatically humiliated, stripped of everything that makes you you ... Even if you have the best built, shiny new jail, the environment and atmosphere are not going to change. You’re traumatizing women every day, inflicting harm on them mentally. We don’t need a new prison. We did a listening tour with 100 formerly incarcerated women. They say prison did nothing for me, nothing to change whatever they thought was wrong.

Formerly-incarcerated community members and allies from the group Families for Justice as Healing (FJAH) wrote an open letter to HDR calling on HDR to step back from the new women's prison project, which FJAH stated is “only intended to destroy black and brown communities." After receiving no response from HDR, FJAH began protesting outside HDR's offices in downtown Boston. Community members leading the fight against the new women's prison HDR is designing have also broadened their fight, and are now advocating that the MA state legislature pass S. 2030/H.1905, a bill which would place a 5-year moratorium on the "study, plan, design, acquire, lease, search for sites, or construct new correctional facilities" in the state of MA. 

Vice magazine reports that in the face of this swelling community opposition against the new women's prison project for which they were bidding, HDR also "advertised its social listening services in a report submitted to Massachusetts’ Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) in September 2020." HDR's offer to surveil and monitor the local activists fighting the state's new prison peaked the interest of Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management Project Manager Emmanuel Andrade, who stated in an email to HDR: “We’re intrigued by how HDR would use this communication practice of monitoring and analyzing online conversations in our project. Can HDR share a few examples of how that has been accomplished in recent projects?” 

Monitoring and repressing Indigenous land defenders

HDR has applied the same "social listening services" it offered the Massachusetts DCAMM to other state and corporate entities seeking to subvert BIPOC community activists opposed to HDR projects. Vice Magazine reports that HDR served as an “engineering consultant” for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) during ADOT's effort to push through a new Freeway project which faced widespread opposition from Indigenous community members and their allies. To support the ADOT freeway project, HDR "surveilled both public and private Facebook groups run by activists opposed to its projects, including the resistance camp Moadag Thadiwa, which sought to block the construction of a nearly $2 billion highway that cuts through the sacred Indigenous mountain Moahdak Do’ag in Arizona. Other groups the firm monitored include a private group for locals called Ahwatukee411, and Protecting Arizona’s Resources & Children (PARC), an organization that sued the Arizona Department of Transportation over the freeway."

HDR boasts that its surveillance of Indigenous community members and allies opposed to the ADOT's freeway project helped push the project through, stating: "surveillance and PR helped inform strategy and messaging that effectively changed the conversation of the [Arizona Freeway] project to focus on the positive public support, economic benefits, job creation and improved mobility in the area.” HDR further supported ADOT's Freeway project by generating "an 'influencer' report, an analysis of public sentiment on social media platforms, and a geospatial analysis that placed communities into categories such as 'ethnic enclaves,' 'barrios urbanos,' 'scholars and patriots,' and 'American dreamers'."

Vice elaborates that "While HDR claims to promote engagement with citizens and stakeholders, GRIC [Gila River Indian Communityhas said that their concerns [about the Freeway project], and the concerns of other indigenous groups, weren’t respected. Police barred GRIC and activists from attending at least one public meeting before the highway was officially opened in 2019." HDR's refusal to respect the concerns of Indigenous community members and allies in Arizona foreshadowed the firm's complete unwillingness to listen to or engage with formerly-incarcerated community members in Massachusetts, who were and who remain opposed to MA's new women's prison. Indeed, in the firm's reply to the aforementioned email from the Massachusetts DCAMM Project Manager Emmanuel Andrade inquiring about how HDR's "social listening program" could help advance MA's new prison project, HDR connected these dots, boasting about how HDR had helped Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) push through the Freeway project.

99 High Street, Suite 2300, Boston, MA 02110-2378

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