This week brought a lightning bolt of news to the architecture and design community, as five women came forward to allege decorated American architect Richard Meier, 83, of sexual harassment and misconduct, signaling that the industry’s #MeToo has finally arrived. Accounts range from as early as the 1980s to 2009, as the New York Times reported, suggesting a long history of behavior that many had kept quiet over decades.
In the wake of the allegations, several institutions have since come forward with statements in response–in many, but not all, cases to formally disavow professional affiliations from the disgraced architect. We’ll update this list if and when more responses emerge.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA), of which Meier is part and from which he received the organization’s highest honor, the AIA Gold Medal, in 1997, shared the following statement with Architect magazine: “AIA stands by a set of values that guide us as a profession and a Code of Ethics that define standards of behavior for our members. Sexual harassment is not only illegal, it flies in the face of our values and ethics.”
Sotheby’s closed a solo exhibition of Meier’s recent collage and silkscreen works at its S2 Gallery in New York, weeks ahead of its scheduled run through March 29. “Under the circumstances, and in consultation with the Meier family, the decision has been made to close the exhibition early,” the arts brokerage firm told ARTnews.
Kent Kleinman, chair of Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning—Meier’s alma mater—effectively declined the architect’s new gift to name the chair of the architecture department, and canceled an event that was to take place next week in celebration of the endowment. “I am deeply disturbed to learn of the allegations of sexual misconduct by Richard Meier (B.Arch. ’56) . . . Although he has apologized, the reported behavior is unacceptable,” wrote Kleinman in an open letter posted on the college’s website, noting that the administration would “swiftly explore what additional actions are appropriate with regard to endowments for professorships and scholarships previously donated to Cornell.” Among his several gifts to the university, Meier had previously funded a scholarship dedicated to recruiting women applicants to its Master’s of Architecture program.
The J. Paul Getty Trust—for which Meier designed its $1.3 billion campus, the Getty Center in Los Angeles—canceled a dinner that was scheduled to take place next week in New York commemorating the 20th anniversary of its completion, as Curbed reported.
Many readers and commenters on Twitter urged organizers of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the profession’s single highest honor bestowed internationally each year, to rescind Meier’s 1984 award. (Other organizations have rescinded awards from Harvey Weinstein in the wake of sexual harassment and assault allegations in 2017). In a statement sent to the Times, it confirmed that it would not, on the grounds that the award was “based on his architectural merit at the time [ . . . ] We do not comment on the personal lives of our laureates, but do consider all sexual allegations to be serious, as abusive behavior towards any individual is unacceptable.”
Updated as of March 22, 2018:
In response to ongoing sexual misconduct allegations, AIA’s New York Chapter (AIANY) announced its decision to rescind honors from two AIANY 2018 Design Awards recipients, in light of ongoing sexual misconduct allegations. AIANY’s Executive Director, Ben Prosky, wrote in a formal statement: “Our decision does not speak to the design quality of the projects or the contributions from the respective firms’ design teams. Rather we cannot in good conscience confer these awards under these circumstances.” The rescinded honors include the Architecture Merit Award for Leblon Offices, designed by Meier’s firm—as well as the Interior Merit Award for The Lobster Club, a New York restaurant designed by the firm of Peter Marino, whose active sexual allegations came to light during AIANY’s act of “due diligence,” says Prosky. Both Meier and Marino had been announced as AIANY Design Awards honorees in January, and were to be formally celebrated at an awards luncheon in April.
Reached for further comment, Prosky told Fast Company: “I think architects often feel they’re in their own world. Nobody was immune to the fact that the #MeToo movement has become incredibly important in terms of affecting some real societal changes. Of course, what it takes in order to establish a kind of basis in your own profession is some very courageous people coming forward on the record, with their name, and making allegations, and this has finally happened in architecture.”
Updated as of March 23, 2018:
In response to architecture’s #MeToo movement, the non-profit advocacy organization The Architecture Lobby has issued a powerful statement against sexual harassment, under the heading #ENDPATRIARCHITECTURE, articulating that “The issue of harassment in the workplace is not limited to any gender, employment status, or age.” In a proactive stance to bring change to the profession’s systemic inequities, the clapback includes a call to action for architecture firms to join a crowdsourced “solidarity network to support those who fear retaliation—including job termination—from reporting sexual harassment or abuse.” For the time being, the group has said the list, much like the recent “Shitty Architecture Men List” that recently surfaced, would remain informal and unpublished.