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RIBA responds to Richard Meier sexual harassment claims

Rm richardphibbs 2004
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RIBA president Ben Derbyshire has condemned alleged behaviour by US architect Richard Meier, who won the institute’s Gold Medal in 1988

The 83-year-old announced he was taking a six-month leave of absence from his New York practice Richard Meier & Partners earlier this week and said he was ‘deeply troubled and embarrassed’ following a report in the New York Times about his behaviour towards five women.

Derbyshire told the AJ: ‘Richard Meier was awarded an RIBA International Fellowship in 1987 and the Royal Gold Medal in 1988 on behalf of HRH The Queen, in recognition of his contribution to architecture at that time.

‘The RIBA takes these allegations extremely seriously and strongly condemns any form of sexual harassment and misconduct.’

The AJ understands that the RIBA is not currently reviewing Meier’s Royal Gold Medal award or honorary fellowship.

However, a number of US institutions have chosen to cut ties with Meier in recent days.

His alma mater Cornell University said it was scrapping plans to name its Department of Architecture chair after him following an endowment, while auction house Sotheby’s swiftly closed a New York exhibition of his work and the J Paul Getty Trust is reported to have cancelled an honorary dinner with the architect next week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his famous Getty Centre in Los Angeles.

In an open letter published on Cornell’s website, architecture dean Kent Kleinman said he would review all previous donations from Meier.

Kleinman wrote that he was ‘deeply disturbed’, adding: ‘As one of our most well-known alumni, Richard Meier has been associated with Cornell University and the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning through his gifts that support students and faculty. Although he has apologised, the reported behaviour is unacceptable.

‘Therefore, we will decline his new gift to name the chair of the Department of Architecture, and we are cancelling the event that had been planned for next week to celebrate the gift.’

The RIAS – which also awarded Meier an honorary fellowship – was contacted by the AJ yesterday but is yet to respond, while the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which awarded Meier its Gold Medal in 1997, said the architect’s alleged behaviour ‘flew in the face’ of its values.

In a statement released to Architect magazine, AIA president Carl Elefante said: ‘AIA stands by a set of values that guide us as a profession and a code of ethics that define standards of behaviour for our members. Sexual harassment is not only illegal, it flies in the face of our values and ethics.’

He added that the AIA was in the process of extending its internal sexual harassment policy to AIA members and firms.

A spokesperson for the Pritzker Prize, which was awarded to Meier in 1984, said the prize had been ‘based on his architectural merit at that time‘. They added: ‘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.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Phil Parker

    Heard accounts of Meier’s behavour twenry years ago from former female employees.

    Great that this is now becoming public, not so much for cases like Meier but as a lsson for the future. It is NOT acceptable, EVER, to use the smidgen of power and influence you earned to intimace or further yourown sexual gratification.

    Id like to see some of these awards being retracted. Architecture isnt just about structure and gravity is a human experience and hese people, if its true, are operating on a base human level.

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