Misconduct allegations "big surprise" says Adjaye Associates New York CEO

Adjaye Associates New York CEO Pascale Sablan has spoken about the impact of sexual misconduct allegations levelled against founder David Adjaye on the studio in an interview outlining its recent restructuring.

In an interview published earlier this week in US publication Architect’s Newspaper (AN), Sablan said that the allegations published in a Financial Times (FT) investigation last year came as a surprise and were not in line with her own experience.

“I can only speak from my experience”

“I did my personal due diligence prior to joining the team, and so when those allegations were published, they were a big surprise to me,” Sablan told AN.

“Not only was that not what was communicated to me before, but it also wasn’t my lived experience. And I can only speak from my experience, right? I wasn’t there.”

The FT investigation outlined accounts of alleged sexual misconduct by Adjaye towards three women in Adjaye Associates’ Accra office, allegations that Adjaye denies.

At the time 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.”

Since the release of the FT investigation, Adjaye’s studio, which has offices in London, Accra and New York, has been removed from a number of projects including new buildings for the Africa Institute in Sharjah and Multnomah County Library in Oregon.

Some clients, such as the Harlem Studio Museum, asked Adjaye himself to step back from the project – but continued work on the projects under the heading of the local firms.

The architect also resigned from his role as design advocate for the mayor of London after the allegations.

Adjaye still involved in “every project”

Sablan clarified the restructuring of the company, which includes empowering the CEOs of individual offices, a move she said was already under consideration and was “expedited” by the FT article.

She also clarified Adjaye’s role going forward, saying that he is still involved in the design process for “every project”.

“[The restructuring] also frees up David, as our design principal, to be 100-per cent focused on design and projects,” said Sablan.

“He continues to lead in that capacity and always participates in every project. That is his central focus, and it gives operations decisions to the CEOs,” she continued, referencing the elevation of her counterparts in London and Accra to the position.

Sablan, who is also the president of the National Organization of Minority Architects, contended that while the victims of the assaults “looked like” her, her personal experience did not line up with the “industry’s understanding” of the events.

“It was a lot to take in and to understand the industry’s understanding of what was written,” she said.

“But also, how do you pit that against what you know, your personal experience? It’s not that one invalidates the other, but it’s more about understanding context and doing your due diligence.”

Working relationship with Adjaye “had not changed”

Sablan also said that her working relationship with Adjaye “had not changed” since the allegations.

“The equation between what is alleged to what is fact is something we need to be mindful of,” she said.

“I’m speaking from my position as CEO, but our collective strategy focuses on making sure our staff is flourishing and enjoying the work that they’re doing, seeing professional growth, and delivering great projects.”

“And that is part of the principles and the key pillars of the studio – pre- and post- and sideways and upside down of any article or allegation.”

The photography is by Stanley Jordan.

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