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New student center’s architect accused of sexual misconduct

Graphic by Robert Heeter; rendering courtesy Adjaye Associates

By Prayag Gordy and Riya Misra     7/7/23 2:18pm

David Adjaye, the founder and principal of the firm designing Rice’s new student center, has been accused of sexual misconduct by three former employees. The Financial Times reported on July 3 that the allegations “range from sexual assault to harassment.”

Rice chose Adjaye Associates to design the new student center in November 2020. The Moody Foundation has donated $100 million to support the project.

The new student center was initially projected to open in fall 2023, but has faced multiple delays. Demolition, which was supposed to occur at the end of the spring semester, has yet to begin. The existing student center is still in use.

In a statement, Jeff Falk, Rice’s director of news and media relations, said the university learned of the allegations after the Financial Times’ initial story. He does not believe any members of the Rice community were personally impacted by Adjaye’s alleged misconduct, but said Rice will continue to monitor the situation and may cut ties with Adjaye Associates.

“The design and architecture of the new student center, and the values it will represent, are critically important to our community for many reasons,” Falk wrote. “Because of our strong concerns about the recent news reports, we, like other past clients of the firm, are very much reconsidering whether Adjaye Associates will continue to be involved in any work with Rice.”

Falk declined to comment on the timeline of the student center project. Adjaye was involved with the “large conceptual matters” at the beginning of the design, Falk said, but Rice has since worked primarily with Adjaye Associates staff.

Adjaye is a Ghanaian-British architect whose work includes the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the National Cathedral of Ghana and the ongoing design of the UK Holocaust Memorial.

His career has earned him several accolades over the years, including knighthood from the late Queen Elizabeth II in 2017 and the Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2021.

Multiple clients, including the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Multnomah County Library, have cut ties with Adjaye in the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations. Adjaye has since “stepped back” from his work on the UK Holocaust Memorial.

Adjaye denied accusations of misconduct in a statement to the Financial Times. He admitted to engaging in relationships that were consensual though unprofessional, and claimed he will be “immediately seeking professional help.”

[7/7/2023 2:50 p.m.] This story was updated to include more information on Adjaye’s personal involvement with the design of the new student center.

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