Acclaimed Ghanaian British architect Sir David Adjaye has stepped away from a number of roles after The Financial Times reported that three former employees accused him and his firm of different forms of exploitation — from alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment by him to a toxic work culture.
In a statement to BBC News on Wednesday, Adjaye said: “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.
Following the Financial Times report, Adjaye departed his post as architectural adviser to the mayor of London, and his work on a planned Holocaust Memorial in the British capital was suspended. His commission to design a new national cathedral in Accra, Ghana has also now been called into question, as well as a museum of West African art in Benin City, Nigeria. The latter, known as the Edo Museum of West African Art, was set to house some of the Benin Bronzes that Germany returned to Nigeria in 2021.
One woman accused Sir David of assaulting her in a South African airport bathroom in 2019. She made a criminal complaint in 2021, which police in the country told the Financial Times they had “registered”. Adjaye’s lawyers told the paper he denied the allegation “in the strongest possible terms” and said the woman had made the allegation well after the event, to try to extract money from Sir David after being dismissed for poor performance at work.
A second woman accused him of forcibly kissing her at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, before “a series of controlling and emotionally abusive sexual encounters with him” in the subsequent months.
She said she sent Sir David a legal letter in February 2022, accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Sir David’s lawyer told the Financial Times he had kissed the woman at the Royal Academy but “categorically denies” her version of events is correct or that “he exhibited abusive and controlling behaviour towards [her]”.
“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.”
Adjaye was previously honored with a knighthood and a gold medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects. He has worked on an array of arts institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the Aïshti Foundation in Lebanon. He also has a spread of forthcoming buildings for institutions such as the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey, the Africa Institute in Sharjah, the Museum of West African Art in Benin City, Nigeria, and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi.