Clients are continuing to sever ties with David Adaye—but not necessarily his eponymous firm in all cases—following the publication of a July 4 report published by the Financial Times in which three women, all former employees, came forward to accuse the star architect of alleged sexual abuse. Adjaye, 56, did not deny having intimate relationships with the women but said in a statement that he “absolutely rejects any claims of sexual misconduct, abuse, or criminal wrongdoing,” adding that the “allegations are untrue, distressing for me and my family and run counter to everything I stand for.”
As initially reported by RECORD following the release of the FT story, at least two clients announced that they would halt their respective relationships with Adjaye: the county library system serving the metro Portland, Oregon, region and the UK Holocaust Memorial & Learning Centre. It was also announced that Adjaye would immediately step down as a Design Advocate with the office of London Mayor Sadiq Kahn.
Stateside, the Studio Museum of Harlem in New York and Chicago developer Fern Hill have since also announced the departure of Adjaye from their respective projects, the latter of which, the redevelopment of several parcels in the Old Town neighborhood, would have been his firm’s first in the Windy City. That project was announced in 2021 and no design renderings had been publicly released.
“We have spoken with Adjaye Associates and are aware of these very serious allegations,” a Fern Hill spokesperson told the Chicago Sun-Times in a statement released in the days following the publication of the FT report. “At this time, Sir David will step away from the project, and we will continue to move forward in the best interest of our local stakeholders and partners in this transformational opportunity for the City of Chicago.”
The Studio Museum in Harlem, which had tapped Adjaye Associates to design its forthcoming new home on 125th Street, said it would continue to work with the firm’s New York office—alongside executive architect Cooper Robertson—to ensure that the long-awaited building reach completion. (A date has not yet been announced.) The museum did indicate, however, that Adjaye himself would no longer be personally involved.
“The actions being alleged are counter to the founding principles and values of the Studio Museum,” Raymond J. McGuire, chairman of the museum’s board, relayed to The New York Times in a statement.
In a separate statement provided to the Times, Adjaye confirmed his departure from the high-profile project, saying that “the prospect of the accusations against me tarnishing the museum and creating a distraction is too much to bear.”
Another in-progress U.S. project with Adjaye Associates at the helm that will continue as planned is the Princeton University Art Museum. “It’s fair to say that most of our work with Adjaye is behind us,” museum director James Steward told the Times, adding: “We have an obligation to all the people involved in this project to see it to completion.”
More recently, Vermont’s Shelburne Museum announced that Adjaye Associates will no longer design its Perry Center for Native American Art, a planned facility housing the institution’s recently expanded collection of Indigenous art that was initially anticipated to break ground as soon as 2024.
“The recent allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against David Adjaye, and his admission of inappropriate behavior, are incompatible with our mission and values, which left the museum with no alternative but to immediately sever ties with the architect and his firm,” said Shelburne Museum director and CEO Thomas Denenberg in a statement shared with RECORD, adding: “We remain committed to moving forward with the project and the many other partners and collaborators who have been involved since its conceptualization.”
Outside of the firm’s architectural projects, the de Cordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Massachusetts announced that it has nixed a fall showing of Asaase (2021), a large-scale sculptural installation designed by Adjaye and first shown at the Gagosian gallery in New York. “In light of recent, serious allegations, The Trustees [of Reservations] is placing our project with David Adjaye on indefinite hold,” the park said in a statement.
A descendent of that work, the rammed-earth Asaase III, has been underway over the past several months on the grounds of the Griot Museum of Black History in St. Louis. The work, Adjaye’s first permanent public sculpture, was commissioned for the 2023 cycle of the Counterpublic triennial, which features more than 30 public art activations situated along a six-mile stretch of Jefferson Avenue with the city’s Griot Black History Museum serving as an anchor site. The exhibition closes this weekend, with Adjaye’s contribution serving as one of two permanent works. (RECORD was on hand in St. Louis for the opening weekend of Counterpublic 2023 in April, which included public programming featuring Adjaye at the Griot and at the Pulitzer Foundation, where he was joined by other participating artists and the exhibition’s curatorial team.)
Wrote Counterpublic in a July 5 statement:
“Counterpublic stands against all forms of abuse, and supports survivors, especially Black women who are survivors. We became aware of the allegations against David Adjaye through public reporting, and take these claims seriously. In view of these allegations, the planned opening of Asaase III has shifted to become a block party in support of the Griot Museum of Black History to lift up their continued work.
We will assess the best next steps in the coming days to come in dialogue with our community and commit to operating from a place of transparency and integrity across all of our efforts as we move forward. Our priority throughout this exhibition has always been to seed civic and cultural investment in the Griot Museum of Black History, and its surrounding community of St. Louis Place. The sculptural commission is just one part of that. Our ongoing commitment is to ensure The Griot’s continued expansion as an essential gathering place. This is true in this moment, and beyond.”
RECORD reached out to Counterpublic, which declined to comment further on its next steps.
Outside of the U.S. and London, the Africa Institute in Sharjah, UAE, has scrapped plans for a new 343,000-square-foot campus designed by the firm. “Our decision will not impact our robust research and educational programming at The Institute's current facilities,” explained Africa Institute president Hoor Al Qasimi in a statement. “The Africa Institute remains as committed as ever to our fellows, faculty, and staff, and to our mission of training a new generation of critical thinkers in African and African diaspora studies, serving as a model of excellence in research, teaching, and documentation.”
Representatives for another in-progress international project, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi, have not publicly commented on the allegations or the status of the institution’s new Adjaye-designed home. The design for that commission, set to be the largest cultural center in India when it opens in 2026, was formally unveiled at the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale.