From a library in Oregon cutting ties to London’s forthcoming Holocaust memorial center announcing a formal parting of ways (for now), the fallout following the release of a report detailing instances of alleged sexual misconduct perpetrated by celebrated Ghanaian British architect David Adjaye has been swift.
On July 4, London’s Financial Times published a bombshell 4,000-word investigative report in which three women leveled serious accusations of sexual misconduct against the 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medalist. All three women were employed in various capacities, one in a communications and marketing consulting role, by Adjaye’s eponymous firm in 2018 and 2019 when the alleged abuses—described as “different forms of exploitation” ranging from “sexual assault and sexual harassment by him” to a “toxic work culture”—took place. The behavior, the accusers said, has “gone unchecked for years.”
Adjaye has strongly denied the specific accusations put forth by the women, who were not named, with his lawyer saying that each “had their own grievances” with the architect.
Earlier this year, the UK’s Architects’ Journal reported that Adjaye had settled out of court with Alice Asafu-Adjaye (no relation to Adjaye) in an unfair dismissal case. Asafu-Adjaye claimed she had been handpicked to set up and run Adjaye Associates’ office in the Ghanaian capital of Accra and relocated from London with her young daughter in 2012, but was terminated in 2015 without sufficient notice or compensation, having been told the Ghana office was closing. She also alleged that Adjaye did not wind up the Ghana company and instead continued to bid for work, including the National Cathedral of Ghana project, through another newly incorporated company, Sir David Adjaye & Associates.
Rendering of National Cathedral of Ghana. Image courtesy Adjaye Associates
The three women in the FT report—two of whom also moved to Ghana with their children and claimed the Accra office failed to regularly pay them—said they were compelled to come forward to “protect others from similar experiences,” noting that their experiences with Adjaye resulted in professional and financial upheavals and caused “serious mental distress.” Each woman’s account was corroborated by the newspaper through interviews with colleagues, friends, and family members of the women as well as the review of contemporaneous emails, texts, and other documents. In its report, the FT spoke with a total of 13 former employees of Adjaye Associates; most of them described working at the firm, specifically at its offices in London and Accra, in starkly negative terms. Ashley Shaw Scott Adjaye, who David Adjaye married in 2014, serves as global head of research at Adjaye Associates.
Although much of the alleged misconduct occurred in London and Accra, one of the women, identified by the FT only by the assumed name of “Maya,” filed a 2021 criminal complaint in South Africa, where she claims she was sexually assaulted by Adjaye in a Johannesburg airport restroom in mid-2019 while traveling for business.
In a statement issued in response to the allegations, Adjaye did not deny having intimate relationships with the three female employees at the center of the report but did “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,” Adjaye said, adding: “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. 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.”
RECORD has also reached out to Adjaye Associates seeking comment.
Following the release of the FT investigation, the New York Times reported that Adjaye, through a statement by communications and crisis management firm Kendal Advisory, would step away from several ceremonial roles and trusteeships so that the allegations “do not become a distraction.” Such roles include serving as a Design Advocate for the office of London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, who had appointed Adjaye to the 42-person advisory panel just last year.
As also reported by the Times, Adjaye’s involvement with the litigation-snarled UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Center at London’s Victoria Tower Gardens (a project with designer Ron Arad) will not continue “until the issues raised have been addressed,” a spokesperson relayed.
Stateside, at least one Adjaye Associates client, Oregon’s Multnomah County Public Library, announced it had cut ties with the firm, which had won the commission for a 95,000-square-foot new branch location last year as part of a larger design team. “Adjaye Associates is no longer associated with Multnomah County and the East County Library project,” a library spokesperson told The Oregonian. “Holst Architecture has been and remains the prime architect of record for the building, which will continue through design and construction as planned. The County declines to comment further.”