July 12, 2023

Architect of New Princeton University Art Museum Won’t Be Removed from Project

By Anne Levin

Despite recent allegations of sexual misconduct against celebrated Ghanaian/British architect Sir David Adjaye, designer of the reconstructed Princeton University Art Museum, the project is too far into the construction stage — past Adjaye’s involvement — to distance itself from his contribution.

“We find the nature of the accusations enormously troubling,” said James Steward, director of the museum, in a statement. “With construction so far advanced, most of our work with Adjaye is behind us. We have a responsibility to all the people involved in this project and all those who will benefit from it to see it to completion, and we remain committed to shaping a museum that is welcoming, engaging, and educational for all.”

Last week, Adjaye stepped back from numerous roles and projects after London’s Financial Times reported on July 4 that three women, who were previously employed by Adjaye, had accused him of sexual harassment. Knighted in 2017 and awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ gold medal in 2021, Adjaye is known as a “starchitect” with a firm of more than 200 employees and offices in London, New York, and Accra.

Adjaye’s previous projects include the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; the redevelopment of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, U.K.; and a museum of west African art in Benin City, Nigeria. Adjaye Associates also designed 130 William Street, a high-rise residential building in lower Manhattan.

According to the Financial Times article, Adjaye has denied all of the claims against him, which range from sexual assault and harassment to a toxic work culture. But he has resigned from numerous roles, including architectural adviser to the mayor of London. His firm has told the British government that Adjaye will no longer be involved in designing the planned Holocaust memorial in London, for which it had won a competition, until the issues involving him have been addressed.

Last Thursday, The Studio Museum in Harlem relinquished its relationship with Adjaye, who was to design its new home in Manhattan. A library project in Portland, Ore., and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass., which was to mount an exhibit of Adjaye’s sculpture, have also cut ties with the architect. The Africa Institute, for which Adjaye was to design a 343,000-square-foot research center in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, has followed suit, according to Art News.

“I absolutely reject any claims of sexual misconduct, abuse, or criminal wrongdoing,” the 56-year-old architect said in a statement. “These allegations are untrue, distressing for me and my family, and run counter to everything I stand for. 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.”

Adjaye went on to say he is seeking professional help “to restore trust and accountability” and “to learn from these mistakes, to ensure they never happen again.”

The reconstructed Princeton University Art Museum is to be an entirely new structure, roughly doubling the square footage of the former building and increasing spaces for display, learning, and visitor amenities. The 144,000-square-foot complex, designed in collaboration with executive architects Cooper Robertson, is planned to open in 2025.