Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier said he was "deeply troubled and embarrassed" by accusations of sexual harassment against him, as he temporarily stepped down from his company.
Meier's statement came after the New York Times published allegations from five women, including four former employees.
"I am deeply troubled and embarrassed by the accounts of several women who were offended by my words and actions," Meier said in a statement published on the Richard Meier & Partners website.
"While our recollections may differ, I sincerely apologise to anyone who was offended by my behaviour," Meier wrote.
Meier takes six-month leave of absence
"Effective today, I am taking a six-month leave of absence as founder and managing partner," said Meier. "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."
In the New York Times story, women recounted their experiences of the architect exposing himself, grabbing underwear at an office party, asking another to undress and dragging another onto his bed.
Four of the women featured in the New York Times articles were employees of his firm Richard Meier & Partners at the time of the incidents. The fifth met the architect when he was working on the Getty Centre in Los Angeles in the 1980s.
Incidents alleged to have taken place at New York apartment
Several of the incidents described to the paper are alleged to have taken place at the architect's New York apartment. Stella Lee, Laura Trimble Elbogen and Alexis Zamlich recount similar experiences of exposure at the residence.
According to the reports in the paper, Meier showed Elbogen nude photographs before asking 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 continued.
Management made aware of incidents
Elbogen told the paper she had made management aware of the incident when she left the firm.
Lee recounts visiting the apartment to find the architect wearing only a blue dressing gown with his penis exposed. He then continued to make several inappropriate suggestions, she told the New York Times.
The following day Lee informed her supervisor that she no longer wanted to work with Meier at the apartment. Lee states that the supervisor asked for no further details.
The New York Times report also states that the firm was informed of an incident that took place while communications assistant Alexis Zamlich was helping the architect sort through his collages at home.
Communications assistant reportedly received $150,000 settlement
Zamlich reportedly received a $150,000 (£107,364) legal settlement and is prevented from speaking about the event, while the firm was required to hold sexual harassment training.
Former employee Judi Shade Monk accuses Meier of harassment at an office party, which was observed by another senior member of staff at the practice. She told the paper, "he started to roll my underwear around in his fingers. One of the more senior members saw it happen and asked if I was OK."
The last allegation comes from furniture designer Carol Vena-Mondt, who is the acquaintance Meier met in Los Angeles in the 1980s. Vena-Mondt says that after dinner at his residence he started “dragging" her toward the bedroom and pushed her onto the bed, despite her resistance.
"I'd never had anything like this happen," Vena-Mondt told the paper. "I was pretty aggressive about telling him no, but he wasn't listening."
Youngest winner of Pritzker Prize
Born in Newark in 1934, Meier studied architecture at Cornell University. He worked at SOM and with Marcel Breuer before establishing Richard Meier & Partners in 1963, where he developed his famed white and glass palette. His practice has completed over 130 buildings across the globe, including the Getty Centre in Los Angeles and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art.
In 1984, aged 49 Meier became the youngest recipient of the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest accolade. At the time the jury said "We honor Richard Meier for his single-minded pursuit of the essence of modern architecture. He has broadened its range of forms to make it responsive to the expectations of our time."
Meier was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1988, and in 1997 he received both the AIA Gold Medal and the Praemium Imperiale – completing his haul of architecture's four most respected awards. In 2010, Cornell established the Richard Meier Professor of Architecture named in honour of the architect.
More than 50 years after he established his practice, the architect is still hugely influential and ranked 71 on the 2017 Dezeen Hot List.
Meier spoke to Dezeen in an exclusive interview in 2016. "I'm the only one in the office who doesn't have a computer," he said. "I give a drawing to someone and they put it on their computer. Then I mark it up."
Allegations come in wake of Weinstein scandal
The claims come five months after the New York Times and the New Yorker exposed film producer Harvey Weinstein as a serial sexual abuser. The resulting #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have increased awareness of sexual inequality in the workplace.
In October, Dezeen columnist Anna Winston explored sexism and harassment in architecture and wondered if there was a Harvey Weinstein in the profession.
The following month, Dezeen's survey of the world's 100 biggest architecture firms revealed a "shocking" lack of women at the top tiers of management. Last week we launched our Move the Needle initiative to tackle gender imbalance in the design industry.
Here is the full statement from Richard Meier & Partners:
Richard Meier takes leave of absence from architecture firm
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. She 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. These range 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.Portrait of Richard Meier is by Silja Magg.