David Adjaye relinquishes roles after reported accusations of misconduct

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David Adjaye relinquishes roles after reported accusations of misconduct
File photo of David Adjaye, lead architect of the National Museum of African American History in Washington, Sept. 8, 2016. (Justin T. Gellerson/The New York Times)

by Alex Marshall

LONDON.- David Adjaye, the acclaimed Ghanaian British architect who designed the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., stepped back from a number of roles Tuesday after The Financial Times reported that three former employees had accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Adjaye resigned as an architectural adviser to the mayor of London, and his work on a British Holocaust memorial was suspended after The Financial Times reported that three women, who were not identified, had “accused him and his firm of different forms of exploitation — from alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment by him to a toxic work culture — that have gone unchecked for years.”

In a statement Tuesday, Adjaye denied the accusations. “I absolutely reject any claims of sexual misconduct, abuse or criminal wrongdoing,” he said in the statement, which was released by Kendal Advisory, a communications and crisis management firm. “These allegations are untrue, distressing for me and my family and run counter to everything I stand for.”

Adjaye added that he was “ashamed to say that I entered into relationships which though entirely consensual, blurred the boundaries between my professional and personal lives.” He was “deeply sorry” for that, he said, and “will be immediately seeking professional help in order to learn from these mistakes to ensure that they never happen again.”

A Kendal Advisory spokesperson declined to explain what that professional help would involve, describing it as a personal matter.

Adjaye’s design for the acclaimed National Museum of African American History and Culture, on the National Mall in Washington, made him one of the world’s most in-demand architects. His commissions include Ghana’s national cathedral; a museum in Nigeria to showcase African art; and a multifaith center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

In the statement, Adjaye said he was also stepping down from ceremonial roles and trusteeships so the allegations do “not become a distraction.”

In 2022, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, appointed Adjaye to a panel of 42 design advocates who advise the mayor on how to ensure “new buildings and public spaces will benefit all Londoners,” according to a news release. He has stepped down from the panel.

“Sir David Adjaye has stepped away from his role as a Design Advocate,” a spokesperson for the mayor said in an email.

A spokesperson for the British ministry overseeing the U.K. Holocaust Memorial and Learning Center in London said in an email that the government was “aware of the allegations” and had spoken with Adjaye’s architecture firm. “They have confirmed that Sir David will not be involved in the U.K. Holocaust Memorial Foundation project until the issues raised have been addressed,” the spokesperson said.

The Financial Times reported that one of the women claimed that Adjaye had sexually assaulted her, including in 2019 in a bathroom at an airport in Johannesburg. It reported that the woman had said that she tried to raise a grievance with Adjaye’s firm, but that her concerns had been dismissed. Adjaye told the newspaper that he denied all the allegations, including the alleged bathroom assault.

In June, Adjaye opened his first residential tower in the United States, 130 William, in the Manhattan borough of New York City. He has also designed the planned new Studio Museum in the Harlem section of New York City, a riverfront master plan for Cleveland and is engaged to reconstruct Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey.

As well as securing prominent commissions, Adjaye has over the past decade been a prominent advocate for the rights of groups underrepresented among architects, including women. In a 2017 interview with Dezeen, an online design magazine, he said he found “it exhausting that women are still fighting for gender parity.

“We’re in the 21st century,” he added: “This is such an old story, we should be way past this. I’m embarrassed, as a male.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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