The Bombshell Allegations Against David Adjaye

The fallout has been swift for the celebrated architect, who was accused of sexual misconduct by three former female employees at his firm. Five years after similar allegations derailed Richard Meier’s practice and sparked an overdue #MeToo moment in architecture, does Adjaye face a similar fate?

Adjaye. Image courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Earlier this week, London’s Financial Times published a bombshell 4,000-word report in which three women accused the acclaimed British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye of sexual misconduct, ranging from assault in an airport restroom to unwanted advances in his apartment. Each of the women, who remained anonymous, was a former employee at Adjaye’s eponymous firm in 2018 and 2019 when the alleged abuse took place. Adjaye has vehemently denied the accusations, calling them “untrue, distressing for me and my family, and run counter to everything I stand for.”

The extent of the consequences awaiting Adjaye—and by extension, his 200-person firm, which maintains offices in New York, London, and Accra—remain to be seen, but the immediate fallout has been swift. Within 24 hours, Adjaye announced plans to relinquish several ceremonial roles and projects. He stepped down as a Serpentine Galleries trustee, Oregon’s in-progress Multnomah County Library parted ways with his firm, his work on a Holocaust memorial was paused, and his installations at the Counterpublic triennial and DeCordova Sculpture Park are being reevaluated. He also resigned as an advisor to London mayor Sadiq Khan, who tapped Adjaye as one of the city’s “design advocates.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Image courtesy of the NMAAHC

It’s a breathtaking fall from grace for one of the world’s most in-demand architects, whose lengthy list of career wins spans the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and designing the National Museum of African American History and Culture. But it’s not the first time a high-profile architect has faced allegations. The profession experienced its first true #MeToo moment with Richard Meier and (albeit less so) Peter Marino, as well as the creation of a Shitty Architecture Men list in 2018. Despite the former’s efforts to rebrand after Meier’s retirement, his firm never truly recovered.

Given Adjaye’s stature as a symbol of progress in an industry not particularly known for its diversity, the allegations are seismic. His projects already wielded worldly implications, but now they’re burdened with an even greater emotional weight.

The Abrahamic Family House by Adjaye Associates on Saadiyat Island. Photography by Dror Baldinger
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