Visitors to the official website for the University Art Museum were previously met with a banner stating, “The Museum’s main building is closed for construction of our bold new Museum, designed by Sir David Adjaye and slated to open in spring 2025.” Now, the website omits any mention of Adjaye.
Sir David Adjaye, renowned Ghanaian-British architect who designed the new Princeton University Art Museum, was recently accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and fostering a toxic work place.
Adjaye has since been dismissed from overseeing several high-profile projects, including the University Art Museum, the Studio Museum in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, and the Multnomah County Public Library in Portland, Oregon, among other projects.
In a statement to The Daily Princetonian, director of the University Art Museum James Steward wrote that, “We find the nature of the accusations enormously troubling. It’s fair to say that most of our work with Adjaye is behind us.”
“We have an obligation to all the people involved in this project to see it to completion, and we remain committed to shaping a museum that is welcoming, engaging, and educational for all,” Steward wrote.
The University Office of Communications declined to issue a statement and deferred comment to Steward.
The allegations in the original Financial Times reporting detail claims made by three Black women formerly employed by Adjaye Associates. The story details several instances in which Adjaye is alleged to have exercised “coercive control,” defined by experts as behavior deployed by perpetrators to manipulate and restrict the autonomy of their victims.
According to the women, in addition to various incidents involving sexual assault and coercion, Adjaye would routinely berate them, make racial insults at their expense, and exhibit controlling behavior regarding their appearances and abilities.
In the original reporting, Emma Katz, a sociology professor at Durham University, characterizes coercive control as “someone … trying to turn you into a puppet on a string and take away your rights, your autonomy, your independence.”
Adjaye’s alleged victims have reported suffering from severe depression, weight loss, social anxiety, and suicidal ideation as a result of their involvement with the architect.
The three women are currently being represented by a human rights and whistleblower organization.
In response to the allegations that have been levied against him, Adjaye soundly rebuked the claims in an official statement issued by Kendal Advisory, a communications and crisis management firm: “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.”
Adjaye has emphasized that his relationships to the three women who have issued the allegations were each pursued in a consensual manner, flatly denying statements to the contrary.
He further added that he was ashamed to admit that he had “entered into relationships which though entirely consensual, blurred the boundaries between my professional and personal lives” and that he “will be immediately seeking professional help in order to learn from these mistakes to ensure that they never happen again.”
Adjaye has garnered global acclaim for designing several buildings, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado. He was awarded the 2021 Royal Gold Medal and knighted in 2017 for his contributions to architecture.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama praised Adjaye’s work as “genius, pure and simple.” Throughout the world of architecture, Adjaye is broadly regarded as a prodigious talent who has contributed to diversifying the historically white profession.
Adjaye maintains offices in London, N.Y., and Ghana. The Adjaye Associates website describes the redesign of the University Art Museum as “a campus within the campus, a space of genuine inquiry.”
Adjaye’s proposed redesign of the University Art Museum incorporates “nine interlocked cubes” that “break down the mass” of the nearly 144,000 sq. ft of the building.
According to Stephen Kim, the associate director for information and technology at the University Art Museum, “several objectives have informed the project since its launch in 2018.”
These include overcoming “barriers of participation, including increased transparency and a sense of welcome;” expanding the gallery area; and transcending “traditional hierarchies of display to place all the cultures on a more equitable level.”
In addition to designing the University Art Museum, which is still under construction, Adjaye has also been involved in designing buildings on other college campuses, including Rice University and Grinnell College. Both colleges have said they are reconsidering their relationship with Adjaye.
Rice University’s media relations personnel are reportedly reconsidering Adjaye’s firm’s association with the building project, though an official dissolution between the university and Adjaye Associates has yet to be formalized.
In response to the allegations against Adjaye, Grinnell College released an official campus message emphasizing a commitment to re-evaluating “any relationship with Adjaye Associates as more information emerges.”
Adjaye has also served as a visiting professor on several Ivy League campuses, including at the University of Pennsylvania, the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and Yale University.
Amy Ciceu is a senior News writer for the ‘Prince.’
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