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Richard Meier temporarily takes leave of absence after accused of sexual harassment by 5 women

United States Architecture News - Mar 18, 2018 - 10:05   18497 views

Richard Meier temporarily takes leave of absence after accused of sexual harassment by 5 women

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier has decided to take a six-month leave of absence from his company Richard Meier & Partners Architects after accusations of sexual harassment made by five women, which was reported in a detailed story by The New York Times last week.

The allegations of five women are reported in the New York Times' story that explicitly details Meier's sexual abuses to his former employees, except one woman, in previous years, ranging from grabbing a woman's "underwear through her dress at a firm holiday party," to exposing himself to unwilling employees.

After these accusations, Meier announced from his company page that he will temporarily step down from the firm by leaving his managing role to the firm's four associate partners, who will oversee the day-to-day operations of the firm’s New York headquarters.

The 83-year-old architect said that “I am deeply troubled and embarrassed by the accounts of several women who were offended by my words and actions,” Meier said. “While our recollections may differ, I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my behaviour." 

"Effective today, I am taking a six-month leave of absence as Founder and Managing Partner. I am leaving the company in the hands of a dedicated and outstanding senior management team, which has spent the past three decades serving our clients and building our firm’s success.”

The New York Times' article explains the detailed experiences of four women with her names in a special interview - even two of them are published with their pictures. Four women - Stella Lee, Laura Trimble Elbogen and Alexis Zamlich and Judi Shade Monk - were former employees of his Richard Meier & Partners Architects and two women have described incidents which have occurred over the last ten years when they were sent to Mr. Meier’s New York apartment, where Mr. Meier exposed himself.

The fifth woman - Carol Vena-Mondt - who didn't work at the company, recounted her experiences with the architect when he was working on the Getty Centre in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Richard Meier temporarily takes leave of absence after accused of sexual harassment by 5 women

The Getty Center in LA. Image © Emily Shur for The New York Times

Incidents started at Mr. Meier's New York Apartment

Laura Trimble Elbogen, Mr. Meier's 24-year-old assistant, explains her first experience with the architect when she was accepted to he firm in 2009. According to the article in the New York Times, the architect invited her to his own apartment to celebrate her new job. 

The article explains that "when she arrived, he offered her a glass of wine, showed her photographs of naked women he had taken and then asked her to undress."

“The incident felt shameful and embarrassing, even though I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Elbogen told the New York Times. “I was worried about my co-workers and what would happen to their reputations if Mr. Meier’s behavior was exposed. Speaking up didn’t feel like an option," she explained.

Elbogen shared her experience with management and the management team was aware of the incident but she was later laid off in what the company described to her as a downsizing.

Another woman, Stella Lee, explains her experiences with the architect when she started working for him in 2000. She detailed that she was arriving at the architect’s apartment "to find him wearing only a blue terry cloth bathrobe that was open in front, exposing his penis," detailed in a story.

According to Lee, Lisetta Koe, a former communications manager of the firm, had warned her about Mr. Meier before working with him.

Lee continued: “Ms. Koe told me that if anything were to happen, I should write two copies of a letter detailing the incident, and to mail one to myself so that I have an unopened postmarked copy should I have to prove the veracity of the date and the details of the abuse,” Lee recalled.

Lee followed this advice and she kept the letter until a few years ago. “I felt resigned to put this away and forget about it forever,” she added. 

Ms. Lee continued that “I was petrified when I saw that." “I tried to channel my panic by focusing on the work, but over the course of the day he made several inappropriate suggestions of which a colleague had warned me - that I try taking a sauna in his bathroom, asking if I liked saunas.”

She then told this inappropriate behaviour to her supervisor by adding that she no longer wanted to work alone with Mr. Meier at his home but her supervisor did not ask for any more details, accordion to the paper by the New York Times.

“He was always chasing women, and nothing stopped him,” explained Lisetta Koe. “He made an attempt to come on to me, and I turned him down.”

Richard Meier temporarily takes leave of absence after accused of sexual harassment by 5 women

Smith House built in 1967 in Darien, Connecticut. Image © Mike Schwartz

"Don’t stay in the office late by yourself", people at the office were warning the new employees

Another allegation come from Judi Shade Monk, who started to work at the age of 26 in 2003 at Mr. Meier's office. Monk said that she also had been warned about Mr. Meier’s behaviours after starting work at the firm. Monk said that "a couple of people at different levels said, "just don’t stay in the office late by yourself," Monk told the New York Times. 

Then Monk recounts her experience with the architect at an office holiday party two months later, and she added that Mr. Meier was introducing Ms. Monk to two prominent architects and "Mr. Meier moved his hand from the small of her back down to her behind, where he played with her thong underwear through her dress."

“He started to roll my underwear around in his fingers,” Ms. Monk recalled. “One of the more senior members saw it happen and asked if I was O.K.”

Reportedly, another woman Alexis Zamlich, a 22-year-old communications assistant from the team, stated that the architect exposed himself during her visit to his apartment in 2009 again. According to the paper,  Ms. Zamlich had been asked to work at Mr. Meier’s apartment every Friday to help with the architect’s collages, which included images of female genitalia.

But allegedly, Zamlich received a $150,000 legal settlement to be prevented from speaking about the incident, while the firm was required to hold sexual harassment training.

Last allegation come from a furniture designer who met with the architect in Los Angeles in the 1980s

Carol Vena-Mondt, a furniture designer who did not work for the architecture firm, is the last woman who accused of the architect with his heinous physical attack at times when the architect was designing the Getty Center in Los Angeles in the 1980s. 

Vena-Mondt shared her upsetting experience while she was at a dinner party at Mr. Meier's residence. When she turned out to be the only guest, after dessert, she said that "Mr. Meier forcefully tried to kiss her, and she went to leave."

"He grabbed me from the back with both of his arms - and he’s a big man - and started pulling me backward," she told the New York Times. Vena-Mondt added: “I twisted and pulled away from him, and he grabbed one of my arms and started dragging me down the hallway toward the bedroom. I was digging in my heels trying to lean back."

According to the paper, she didn’t report the incident at that time, because she had felt afraid. “I didn’t want to offend him,” Ms. Vena-Mondt, now 70, said. “That’s the era I was raised in.”

Richard Meier temporarily takes leave of absence after accused of sexual harassment by 5 women

Douglas House in Michigan. Image © Scott Frances/OTTO

Richard Meier, 84, was born in Newark, New Jersey. He is one of renowned modernist architects who is best known for his prominent use of the colour white on the buildings' facades. He established his own practice Richard Meier & Partners in 1963. When he won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1984, he was the youngest architect, who received the prize at the age of 49. 

Meier was also awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1988, the AIA Gold Medal and the Praemium Imperiale in 1997. For over five decades, the Firm has been appointed to design important buildings, and it has successfully completed over 130 projects across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. The quality of the work of the firm has been recognized with almost 300 design awards until now.

Among its best known works are: the Smith House in Darien, Connecticut; the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California; the United States Courthouse in Islip, New York; the Perry Street & Charles Street Condominiums in New York City and the Jubilee Church in Rome, Italy.

Richard Meier & Partners is led by founder Richard Meier and eight partners. The offices in New York and Los Angeles employ a multicultural staff of talented professionals practicing architecture, urbanism, product design and exhibition design. 

Recently, Meier's name was given to the chair of the Department of Architecture in Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP). Regarding the allegations, the Pritzker Prize committee said that the prize would stand, given that it was ”based on his architectural merit at that time," published in a second article by The New York Times.

“We do not comment on the personal lives of our laureates,” the Pritzker Architecture Prize statement added, “but do consider all sexual allegations to be serious, as abusive behavior towards any individual is unacceptable.”

Read the full statement of Richard Meier & Partners Architects below:


New York, March 13th, 2018 – Richard Meier & Partners Architects announced today that Managing Partner Richard Meier will take a six-month leave of absence from the architecture firm. 

“I am deeply troubled and embarrassed by the accounts of several women who were offended by my words and actions,” Meier said. “While our recollections may differ, I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my behavior. 

Effective today, I am taking a six-month leave of absence as Founder and Managing Partner. I am leaving the company in the hands of a dedicated and outstanding senior management team, which has spent the past three decades serving our clients and building our firm’s success.”

While Richard Meier is away, Michael Palladino, partner and head of the company’s Los Angeles office, will oversee all of the firm’s operations and projects. 

“Richard has built a world-class design practice and we will continue the strong collaboration between our two offices, as we continue to build on that legacy,” Palladino said. “We believe that women should feel comfortable and empowered in all workplaces – including ours.”

In addition to Palladino and James R. Crawford in Los Angeles, four associate partners will oversee the day-to-day operations of the firm’s New York headquarters. They are:

- Vivian Lee, AIA, has been responsible for the design, management and construction of residential, hospitality, and office projects in Asia and Europe, and most recently completed the Teachers Village charters schools and residential buildings in Newark, NJ.

- Reynolds Logan, FAIA, is currently the Associate Partner-in-charge of One Waterline Square, a massive mixed-use and high-rise residential community that connects the Hudson River and Central Park.

- Bernhard Karpf, FAIA, is one of the firm’s principal design partners. His projects include leading the design efforts on iconic projects such as the Surf Club in Surfside, FL.

- Dukho Yeon, AIA, has served as a principal designer, managing and directing teams on projects around the globe ranging from houses to museums, hotels, high-rise office and residential buildings and urban design. His projects include the Seamarq Hotel and 685 First Avenue in New York, NY.


Top image: Richard Meier, image © Silja Magg

> via New York Times