Editor's Note: This story was updated on March 14, 2018, to include new information about Meier's gift to Cornell University, an exhibition of his work at Sotheby's, and a statement from the Pritzker Architecture Prize.
According to a story published online Tuesday afternoon in the New York Times, five women have come forward with accusations of sexual harassment by Richard Meier, the 83-year-old, Pritzker Prize–winning architect. According to a statement issued by the firm, the founder will take a six-month leave of absence.
“I am deeply troubled and embarrassed by the accounts of several women who were offended by my words and actions,” Meier said in the statement. “While our recollections may differ, I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my behavior.
Four of the women identified in the Times story worked for Meier, with two describing similar instances of the architect exposing himself to them at his apartment in New York. A third employee alleges that Meier asked her to undress at his apartment, while a fourth referenced an incident, which was witnessed by coworkers, that occurred at a holiday party. Two of the four recalled having been “warned” by colleagues about the founder’s behavior before their experiences with Meier.
Scott Johnson, who served as chief operating officer at Richard Meier Architects between 2003 and 2010, confirmed to the Times that he dealt with two of the accusers’ complaints. “We did everything we could to look into the claims and set up a strong sexual harassment policy and training,” Johnson said, “which everyone, including Richard, participated in.”
The story also cites a fifth woman—a furniture designer not employed by Meier’s firm—who reportedly encountered him during his time working on the Getty in the 1980s. She described fleeing his home after he forcefully attempted to kiss her and pushed her down onto a bed. “He pushes me on the bed and lays down on top of me while I’m twisting and pushing him away and saying, ‘No, no, no,’” the woman told the Times. “I’d never had anything like this happen. I was pretty aggressive about telling him no, but he wasn’t listening.”
Meier recently made a donation to the Department of Architecture at Cornell University in celebration of his 55th year in practice, endowing and naming the chair and an assistant professorship position, as well as establishing two graduate level scholarships for students in the university’s master of architecture program. In a statement on Tuesday evening, Kent Kleinman, dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University, announced that the gift would no longer be accepted. A solo show of Meier's work at Sotheby's S2 Gallery in New York has also been cancelled early in response to the news.3
The Pritzker Architecture Prize issued a statement noting that, while the awards organization considers "abusive behavior” toward anyone “unacceptable,” it would not be responding to the allegations against its 1984 winner: “We do not comment on the personal lives of our Laureates, but do consider all sexual allegations to be serious.”
Michael Palladino, partner and head of the firm’s Los Angeles office, will oversee all operations and projects during Meier’s leave of absence, while four associate partners—Vivian Lee, Reynolds Logan, Bernhard Karpf, and Dukho Yeon—will manage operations of the firm’s New York headquarters.