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David Adjaye accused of sexual assault by three former employees

United Kingdom Architecture News - Jul 06, 2023 - 09:27   2177 views

David Adjaye accused of sexual assault by three former employees

Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye has been accused of sexual assault by three former employees, in which the claims were reported by the Financial Times for the first time on July 4. 

According to the allegations in the Financial Times investigation, the accusations come from three women who worked for Adjaye in 2018 and 2019, with one of them making a criminal complaint to the police in South Africa in September 2021.

The women, whose names were changed by the FT to protect their identities in the article, claim that dealing with Adjaye severely disrupted their careers, experienced mental distress and caused financial difficulties. 

The women, whose names have been changed by FT to Gene, Maya and Dunia, accuse Adjaye and his firm, Adjaye Associates, of "different forms of exploitation — from alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment by him to "a toxic work culture — that have gone unchecked for years."

The three women making the accusations are all black women and single mothers in their forties at the time of the alleged abuse, the FT reports. 

Adjaye "strongly denies making any sexual advances towards them"

The two women, who the FT named Gene and Maya, moved to Ghana in the middle of 2018 to help establish the Accra office of Adjaye Associates.

When Adjaye visited the Accra office in September 2018, Maya and Gene allege that they went out to a dinner with Adjaye hoping to talk about problems of the office, after a dinner, then went to Adjaye's corporate apartment and he sexually assaulted them in the apartment. 

Adjaye's lawyer confirmed that Adjaye and the three women met for dinner, and that Maya and Gene came to his apartment" for a drink to finish off the evening", however, Adjaye "strongly denies making any sexual advances towards them", and he “categorically denies forcing [Maya] to enter his bedroom and sexually assaulting her."

The architect's lawyer also denied allegations that Adjaye met or gave a cash Maya the day after the sexual assault. However, Maya claims that Adjaye called her the next day and wanted to meet her outside the apartment and saw him taking money from an ATM.

Adjaye's lawyer stated that the company has no such payment record; his lawyer confirmed that Adjaye did make a withdrawal on that day, but only "to pay for a police escort to assist with driving through traffic" for a site visit.

Maya, who continued to work at the company after this incident, claims that she went to South Africa for a project launch in mid-2019, when as they were walking through the OR Tambo International Airport terminal Adjaye told her to "get into the bathroom" and she claims that the other sexual harassment took place in an airport bathroom.

Adjaye denied the claims and he said he did not "engage in sexual activity with her during this encounter" and denied the allegation “in the strongest possible terms."

In January 2020, 8 months after the alleged bathroom incident, Maya was fired from the company without notice. Later, Maya filed a criminal complaint against Adjaye to the police in South Africa in September 2021.

It was also reported that four months after the apartment incident, Gene was invited to meet with a senior manager in the Accra office and was fired from her job, and the two sides mutually reached a $40,000 financial settlement in May 2019.

She claimed that after being fired from her job, the events that she had a devastating effect on her health, suffered from depression and extreme weight loss, and severely disrupted her relationships with family life.

"A series of controlling and emotionally abusive sexual encounters with him"

Another sexual harassment claim comes from a third woman, whom FT calls Dunia, Adjaye met at an industry event in the UK in January 2019. Dunia claimed in 2019 that when she started working "informally" for Adjaye in the position of a communications and marketing specialist at the firm, she "endured a series of controlling and emotionally abusive sexual encounters with him".

She also claimed that "she felt pressured to work for him for a period without pay and to comply with his sexual demands because of his influence in the arts world."

Dunia claimed that when they met for a dinner two weeks after they met, after a dinner Adjaye asked Dunia to take her to the Royal Academy of Arts, and as they passed through the building, she claimed that "Adjaye pushed her up against an alcove" and kissed her forcefully. 

Dunia sent Adjaye a legal letter in February 2022 accusing him of sexual misconduct and ended her position with the company. In response to Dunia's lawyer's letter, Adjaye said WhatsApp histories related to Dunia "showed a consensual relationship".

As the FT reports, the three women, Gene, Maya and Dunia, are now represented by an organisation "that specialises in human rights and whistleblowing." 

The architect's lawyer confirmed that Adjaye kissed Dunia at the Royal Academy, but Adjaye “categorically denies” that her version of events is correct or that "he exhibited abusive and controlling behaviour towards [her]".

"I absolutely reject any claims of sexual misconduct, abuse or criminal wrongdoing"

In a response letter sent to the FT, David 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."

"I am ashamed to say that I entered into relationships which though entirely consensual, blurred the boundaries between my professional and personal lives," Adjaye continued. 

"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," he added.

Adjaye's London and Accra offices were claimed to be "disorganised and frantic"

According to the FT's 4,000-word investigation, the work culture at Adjaye Associates' both London and Accra offices were claimed to be "disorganised and frantic", based on interviews with 13 former employees who had worked at the firm. 

According to the allegations of the woman, her salary was reduced after the first offer, she described working hours as "toxic" and complaint about aggressive behavior of a senior employee - which were among her bad experiences.

Another former employee claimed that Adjaye told her to flirt with clients if needed to get something in the interest of Adjaye. "If you have to flirt with him to get something in the interest of Adjaye, just do it,’ he said to me. I was stunned, I couldn’t even respond,” she said. 

The architect's lawyer said that "Adjaye has no recollection of issuing such an instruction."

According to the FT, the reason of the incidents came to light was to share "their experiences in order to prevent other women from encountering similar abuse and to make public the architect’s private behaviour."

For all three incidents, the FT's investigation was based on the corroboration of their accounts by interviewing colleagues, reviewing contemporaneous emails, documents and text messages and interviewing with family members and friends whom they confided in. 

David Adjaye is one of the most acclaimed architects in the world, whose offices take place in London, New York and Accra. 

He was awarded the 2021 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, the award is the UK’s highest honour for architecture given by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

In 2017, Adjaye was named as the world’s most influential architect by TIME Magazine. He received the Knight Bachelor award as part of the Queen's biannual honours programme after "his contributions to architecture and design across the United Kingdom."

Top image: David Adjaye © Chris Schwagga.

> via Financial Times 

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