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Renowned architect Sir David Adjaye steps back from multiple projects amid sexual misconduct allegations

<i>Tristan Fewings/Getty Images/FILE</i><br/>David Adjaye attends the opening of an exhibition during Frieze Week in October 2018 in London. Adjaye has stepped back from several projects following allegations of sexual harassment or assault lodged against him by three unnamed former employees.
Tristan Fewings/Getty Images/FILE
David Adjaye attends the opening of an exhibition during Frieze Week in October 2018 in London. Adjaye has stepped back from several projects following allegations of sexual harassment or assault lodged against him by three unnamed former employees.

By Nicole Mowbray and Oscar Holland, CNN

(CNN) — Prominent architect David Adjaye has stepped back from several roles and upcoming projects following allegations of sexual harassment or assault lodged against him by three unnamed former employees in the Financial Times.

As well as relinquishing an advisory position with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Ghanaian-British architect has stepped down from building projects including the UK’s new Holocaust Memorial and a public library in Oregon that said it had cut ties with his firm, Adjaye Associates, entirely.

The women’s claims, published on July 4, relate to incidents of misconduct they allege took place in 2018 and 2019. They are denied by Adjaye, who issued a statement to the Financial Times and CNN saying: “I absolutely reject any claims of sexual misconduct, abuse or criminal wrongdoing. These allegations are untrue, distressing for me and my family and run counter to everything I stand for.

“I am ashamed to say that I entered into relationships which though entirely consensual, blurred the boundaries between my professional and personal lives. I am deeply sorry,” his statement continued. “To restore trust and accountability, I will be immediately seeking professional help in order to learn from these mistakes to ensure that they never happen again.”

The three women making the allegations against Adjaye either worked for or were contracted to his architectural practice in 2018 or 2019. The firm was founded in 2000 and has offices in London, New York and Accra, Ghana. In interviews with the Financial Times, they claimed their experiences with Adjaye have disrupted their careers, caused them financial hardship and emotional distress.

Adjaye told the New York Times he was stepping down from ceremonial roles and trusteeships to prevent the allegations from becoming “a distraction,” though his representatives did not respond to CNN’s request for confirmation.

A spokesperson for London’s Mayor told CNN the architect had “stepped away” from his work as a “Design Advocate,” a role he assumed in 2017; Adjaye on Tuesday also “stepped away from his responsibilities and his formal association with Serpentine as a Trustee,” a spokesperson for the Serpentine Galleries in London told CNN in a statement. “We have accepted his resignation with immediate effect,” they added.

A British Government spokesperson told CNN that Adjaye Associates had informed the country’s Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities that the architect  “will not be involved” in the UK’s forthcoming Holocaust Memorial “until the issues raised have been addressed.” The architecture firm unveiled its design for the memorial and learning center in 2017, though the project is still awaiting parliamentary approval.

And in a statement, a spokesperson for National Museums Liverpool, an organization for which Adjaye Associates had been hired to redevelop the city’s International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum, told CNN they “became aware of these allegations on 4 July as a result of the report published by the Financial Times. We are currently unable to make any further comment but take the allegations described very seriously.”

In the United States, a spokesperson for the Multnomah County Library in Oregon told CNN that Adjaye Associates “is no longer associated with Multnomah County and the East County Library project,” a forthcoming 95,000-square-foot facility co-designed by the firm. “Holst Architecture has been and remains the prime architect of record for the building, which will continue through design and construction as planned,” the statement continued.

In a statement provided to CNN, Tom Denenberg, CEO and director of the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, said, “in light of the serious and troubling allegations reported against David Adjaye, we are actively reviewing our engagement with the architect and his firm.”

Adjaye Associates had been commissioned by the Museum to design its Perry Center for Native American Art.

“Our evaluation places in the fore our immediate commitment to construction of a building and integrated landscape collaboratively designed to create a national resource for the study and care of Indigenous art,” Denenberg’s statement continued. “Because we are in the earliest stages of design, we have time to consider our next steps to keep this important project on track and honor our commitment to the many partners and collaborators who have been involved in the conceptualization of this important project.”

And The Trustees, an organization in charge of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where Adjaye was due to exhibit his 2021 sculptural work “Asaase” this coming fall, told CNN in a statement that, “in light of recent, serious allegations, The Trustees is placing our project with David Adjaye on indefinite hold.

Since the initial publication of this article, CNN received additional statements from the Ghana-based African Future Institute, which confirmed Adjaye “stepped away from his role as a patron of the AFI immediately following the allegations,” and the African Institute, in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, which confirmed the Institute’s decision to cancel plans for a new campus designed by Adjaye Associates altogether.

“The Africa Institute is deeply troubled by the recently reported allegations regarding David Adjaye, and we have made the decision to cancel the building project with Adjaye Associates,” the statement from the Institute’s president, Hoor Al Qasimi, read. “Our decision will not impact our robust research and educational programming at The Institute’s current facilities.”

CNN has also reached out to representatives for buildings and commissions which have been in development with Adjaye Associates around the world, including the Batsheva Arts Center in Tel Aviv, Israel, the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa and the Barbados Heritage District in Bridgeton, Barbados, among others, but received no response.

One of the world’s most celebrated architects, Adjaye has designed landmark buildings such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, DC, which opened in 2016. He was knighted in 2017 for his work in the field, having been awarded an OBE a decade earlier and in 2021 became the first Black architect to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. 

Just last week, his firm unveiled its first skyscraper in Manhattan. Its current projects include the aforementioned redevelopments of the International Slavery Museum and the Batsheva Arts Center, as well as the building of the  National Cathedral of Ghana, the King Salman Park Visitor Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and the Quayside waterfront development in Toronto, Canada.

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