Letter to Snøhetta: You Are Also Accountable for the Exploitation of Undocumented Workers on Your Project


Addendum: Snøhetta’s response to this letter can be read below the names of the signatories. 

Dear Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, dear Craig Edward Dykers, dear partners and employees of the world-renowned architecture office Snøhetta,

This letter to you originates from Paris where, one of your design is slowly materializing into what soon will be the new headquarters of France’s major newspaper Le Monde. You are hopefully aware that the construction site of this project has been the place of a crucial struggle for workers’ rights these past few days. In fact, as we are writing you this letter, some of our undocumented worker comrades, along with the union CNT-Solidarité ouvrière (Labor National Confederation-Workers solidarity) have been “inaugurating your building” (their words) occupying day and night the construction site as a means to obtain reparations.

Le Monde HQ Gilets Noirs

About 30 undocumented workers have been hired by two subcontractors (CICAD and Golden Clean) of the fifth largest construction company in Europe, the infamous Eiffage, which has been hired by Le Monde for the construction of the steel structure and facade of “your building.” Similarly to the situation of many undocumented workers in Europe, these workers have been exploited and their labor is legally qualified as “dissimulated” by the French Penal Code.

These undocumented workers demand:

  • the end of subcontracting and their direct hire by Eiffage ;
  • the payment of all the hours of labor according to the standard hourly rate (some of them have been only paid 40 euros per night; extra time has been paid 5 euro per hour) ;
  • the pay stubs corresponding to their labor ;
  • the respect of the labor code, security norms and collective conventions;
  • the documents that would allow their documentation.


Le Monde HQ Gilets Noirs3
Left. Gilets Noirs occupying the Pantheon on July 12, 2019. Right. Undocumented activists occupying Le Monde’s HQ on February 27, 2020.

Some of the 600 Gilets Noirs (group of undocumented activists), who, on July 12, 2019, succeeded in occupying the French Pantheon before being violently charged and beaten by armed racist police, are part of the occupation. Gilets Noirs activists — many of whom came to live and work in France from Mali, Mauritania, Guinea, or Ivory Coast — have been stressing the many reasons that make their extremely precarious conditions the effects of colonial structures, both in the way their countries still exist in an economic, military, and political dependency imposed by France, and through the process of racialization to which the French state and its representatives (the police in particular) are subjecting them. It is also crucial to understand that the status of undocumented workers does not only make them economically vulnerable, it also makes them virtually disposable and creates conditions of potentially deadly physical harm. Every year, many undocumented workers die on European construction sites with no accountability whatsoever for the many people responsible for this situation — even far from the shores and way into its land, Fortress Europe continues to kill racialized people.

As the architects of Le Monde‘s headquarters, you are part of the entities politically responsible for the conditions of labor in which your design is being materialized. As such, you cannot claim neutrality, and we, 258 architects and non-architects from various places of the world, formally ask you to unequivocally position yourselves with regards to this situation. If you choose to side with Eiffage, claims that this is not your responsibility, or decline to answer, we will consider you as political adversaries and hold you publicly accountable. If, on the other hand, you recognize that architects are co-responsible for the labor conditions on the sites of the materialization of their design, you can establish an important precedent for the profession, undocumented workers’ rights, and society at large. In doing so, you must explicitly communicate to Eiffage your support to undocumented workers’ claims so as to put pressure on them as it is your prerogative.

We thank you for your time and hope to hear from you as soon as possible.


Signatories (names of people who identify with the “we” of this letter will be regularly added here)
Léopold Lambert, publisher & architect
Evelyn Hofmann, architecture
Desiree Valadares
Jessica Ferreiro, Social Worker
Nataša Prljević, cultural worker
Bogdan Ionescu, architect
Margarida Waco
Antoine Perron, architecture student
Chloé Darmon, architecture student
Hadj-Hassen Amel, architecture student
Françoise Vergès, Political Activist
Anne Barthes, architecte
Patricia Morton, Professor of Architectural History
Muchamad Nathalie, visual artist
Karima El Kharraze, playwright and theatre director
Hajer Ben Boubaker
Miriam H Abraham, educator & developer
Dubravka Sekulić, architect and educator
Esther Delaunay, architecture student
Lynda Zein, architect
Pedro Telles da Silveira, Historian
Amarí Peliowski, Architect
Apruzzese Antoine, architect
Erika Brandl, architect
Dr Hannah le Roux, architect
Mitchell Lawrence, Architecture Student
Isabel Gutierrez Sanchez, Architect
Benoit, architecture student
Gerty Dambury, playwright
Faune Stevens, designer
Nadia El Hakim, architect
Peter Box Andersson, curator, Oslo
Kenza Talmat, student
Nathyfa Michel, teacher
Ben Abdallah Yassine, Design Student
Amel M’harzi, student
Shela Sheikh, academic
Lori A. Brown, architect and professor
Madeeha Merchant, Architect
Biayna Bogosian
Jérémy DC, translator
James Martin, Architect
seldal giritli, architect / redaktor
Leó Barista
Karolína Plášková, architect
Michael Badu, architect
Leslie Forehand, Architect and Professor
Xavier Wrona, architect and professor
Olivia Ahn, Designer
Zineb El Gharbi, PhD Candidate, Ehess (Paris)
Marianne Ferrand, Architect
Olivier Peyricot, direction recherche Cité du design
Charlotte, architect etc
Etienne Chobaux, architect
Kordae Jatafa Henry, Director + Designer
Rosalba González, urban planner
Orit Theuer, Architect
Alfred Amely
René Boer, critic
emily suzanne lever, reporter
Emilie Pichot, librarian
Sadia Shirazi, PhD candidate and educator
Albert Refiti, associate professor of art and design
Peter Macapia, Professor, Architectural Designer
Jeanne Rivière, architecte
lize wessels, architecture student
Mina Rafiee- Architect
Martin Byrne, Architect
ST Luk, Designer
Sarah Roubach, architect
Nasser Rabbat, Professor of Architecture
Wardak Feda, Architect
Melissa BELL BELL – travailleuse social
Samaneh Moafi, Senior Researcher (architecture)
Marina Otero, architect
Marat Cackley-Hughes
Brent Patterson, Teacher architectural theory & history – ENSAPM, ENSAPLV, ENSAB
Jeevan Farias, Researcher
Nayri Carman, student
Tibourki youssef student
Marie Hamoniaux, architecture student
Baptiste SÉRIS – ENSA Paris-Malaquais
Julia Markey, Architectural Designer
Etienne Issa, arch designer, researcher, and activist
Sonia Zerhouni, Engineer
Jaemin AN, architecture student
Alex Lenthe
Massicilia Nedir, student
Rula Shadid, Architect
Sunmi Lee, Designer
Ziheng Li student
Nagy Makhlouf Architecture student
Noelle Geller
Charlotte Grace, Lecturer in Architecture
Jade Bénéï – Architecture student
Mai AlBattat _ Urban designer
Jean Makhlouta, architecte
Belen Laquèche, architecture student
Elise Hunchuck, landscape architect & editor
Silvia Rafael Pazos – architect
Timothy Perkins, professor urban politics ENSCI-les ateliers, artist, architect
Marina L, student
Merve Bedir, architect
Jude Hamze, student
Ana Dana Beroš, architect and curator
Dimitra Andritsou, architect, researcher
Georges Kallab – Architecte
Ethel Baraona Pohl. Co-founder of dpr-barcelona
Emilio Brandao, architect & teacher
Leroy & Architecture’s Student
Arvind Ramachandran, architect
Enguerran Chauve, Artist and Designer
A. Journée-Duez, PhD candidate in Anthropology
HiroKo Nakatani, Architect
Fernande Njonkou Njanjo, architecte
M. Wesam Al Asali, Architect
Elias Guenoun, architect
Thomas Batzenschlager – Architect & Teacher
Daron Chiu, architecture student
Lenka Milerova, architect
Stijn Baets architect
Mara Petra Architect
Giacomo Pirazzoli, architect and professor
Ana María León, architect, historian, educator
Gianluca Croce, architect
Bernardo Amaral, Architect
Álvaro López Gadea, architecture student
Keith Hack, Graduate Architecture Student
Sarah Gerdiken architecture student
Nacira GUÉNIF Sociologist, Professor University Paris !
Karina A. Architect
Constantinos Miltiadis, architect
Alexandra Bedin – architecture master student
Alice Ravelo de Tovar, architecture student
Nagapane Shalinie – étudiante
Ruth Lang, architect
Anaïs Duong-Pedica, Researcher at Åbo Akademi University (Finland)
Nora Labo, art historian
mireille besnard artiste
Sam Maolánach Ó Gealbháin, Architecture student.
Aref, architect
Max Turnheim, Architect
Sanela Dizdar, architect
Ena Kukic, architect
Kendra James, Sr Design Director
Sébastien Beauregard, architecte
Deborah Cowen, professor – urban planning and geography
Joshua Barnett, RA, architect.
Frixos Petrou, architecture student
Christos Floros, Architect
Erdem Üngür, Researcher/Architect
Evan , architect
Lindesay Dawe, Architect (UK)
Marianna Kontos, architect and PhD student
Hulya Ertas, critic
Lescot, teacher
Tanguy Aubin, Architecture student
Clara Piolatto, PhD student in architecture
Anders Neergaard, professor in Sociology
Erik Berggren, Research communicator, curator
Sandra Lange performance design and research
Erik Berggren, Research communicator, curator
João Paupério, architect
Martin Jacob, Student
Socrates Stratis, Architect, Urbanist
Nora El Massioui Anti-discrimination Trainer
Mario Pessa , Architect
Clarisse Genton PhD Candidate (ENSA Paris-Malaquais)
Tamaya Sapey-Triomphe – architecture student
Clément Vergé Architecture student
Léo Dumont, designer
Perspectivas anómalas | ciudad · arquitectura · ideas
esraa smadi, an architect
cyril nicosia (architecture student)
Luis Angel Flores, urbanist
Nathaniel, Architecture Student
Albert Brenchat-Aguilar (architect/curator)
Nuno Neves
Maxime Geny, Architect
Guillaume Tisserand, Student of architecture.
Henrik Almquist
Lachlan Welsh – architect
Sarah Gunawan, Senior Architectural Designer
Adam Achrati, Architect
Patrick Donbeck, designer & educator
Eduardo Cassina, architect/ adj. Professor of architecture
Javier Arbona, Assistant Professor, University of California – Davis
Michael Maginness, Architectural Designer and Visual Artist
Jeremy Lecomte, Philosophe et historien de l’architecture
Tim de Boer aecitectural critic
Pietro Castano Teacher
Thierry Decuypere, architect, assistant ULB Brussels
Mahmoud Keshavarz, Design researcher
Tamar Shafrir, designer
Diana Cuc, architecture student
Dario Di Turi
Alfredo Roccia, Architect
cécile researcher in history of architecture
Vincent Meessen, Artist
Chloé & architect
Lorenzo Lazzari, researcher
RANA SALAMAT Kanzal-Noor, Architecture student
Afroditi Dosopoulou, Architect
Feda Wardak – Architect
Alex Bodkin, Architectural Designer
Jess Myers, urbanist
Mahdi Sabbagh, architect
Lucia Alonso architect
Joey Swerdlin, Architectural Designer
Bart Decroos, Architect
Iben von Holck, Anthropologist
Lambert Dauvillier architecte DE
Mira Younes, Scholar, Psychologist
Jakob Grabher, student
Nils Neuboeck, architecture student
Roanne Moodley, Candidate Architect
Hannah Höfte, architect
Sidonia Tabita Waco, Leisure manager
Luís Pinto, architecture student
Léa Noguès architecte
Regis Lisa-Marine, architecture student
Gack Flores, human
Helena Souto, architecture student
Kirti Durelle, architect
Eleanor Peres, architect
Senaka Weeraman Designer
Baris Yarsel / Chef de projet
UVW – Section of Architectural Workers (U.K. Trade Union)
Tatiana vela, architect
Florian Corniquel – architecte
Jean-Edouard Jaber, architecture student
Jennifer Endozo, architectural designer
Alix Rever, studying Architecture ENSAPM
Concrete Action
C. Lefebure, architect
Camille Rouaud, architect
César Reyes Nájera | dpr-barcelona
Jerome le liard worker
Daham Marapane, architecture student
Trine Strand Hale, Architect
Salvatore Peluso, writer
Assia Boudhar Lecturer and Researcher at University College London
Francelle Cane, Architect
Alexandre Marguerie
Maarten Slof, Designer
George Kafka, architecture writer/editor
Lucas Issey, architect
Angel Dodov, architecture student
Inoussia Ahmed – Student
Dario Guazzo
Gaia – architetto
Lorenzo Cristoforetti Architect
Yanover, Architecture student
Alba Ansong, Architecture student
Filipe Balestra, Developer

Answer by Snøhetta sent to us and Le Monde on March 2, 2020 by Kjetil Trædal Thorsen ////

We are saddened and caught off guard by the news about the situation for the cleaning personnel on the Le Monde Group Headquarters building site. We support the personnel’s demands for fair treatment and urge for an agreement that ensures that working regulations are respected. 

Ever since working on the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, we have actively been advocating for workers’ rights on the building sites in which we have been involved around the world. This includes health and safety regulations for construction workers as well as their overall contractual conditions.

We will continue to do our utmost to make sure that workers’ rights are respected. This incident is an important reminder that both we and the building industry must work even harder to prevent unjust treatment of workers – both today and in the future.