Liverpool slavery museum cuts ties with architect David Adjaye

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Liverpool’s slavery museum has cut ties with the firm run by Sir David Adjaye, becoming the latest institution to sever its relationship with the renowned architect accused of misconduct including sexual assault and harassment in a Financial Times investigation.

While National Museums Liverpool will still use Adjaye’s design as the basis for the £57mn redevelopment of the International Slavery Museum, it said on Thursday that it would hire new architects to see the project through to completion.

Laura Pye, director of National Museums Liverpool, which comprises museums and art galleries in and around the city in the north of England, said severing ties with Adjaye Associates was a business decision because “we felt there were some risks in terms of continuing our contract”.

The museum took the decision after receiving legal advice and discussions with its board. It informed Adjaye, who designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and his team two weeks ago. Adjaye Associates declined to comment.

The museum, which aims to increase “the understanding of transatlantic, chattel and other forms of enslavement”, said it remained committed to the project but intended to start “an accelerated tender procurement” for new architects in the coming weeks. In March, Adjaye’s firm left another National Museums Liverpool project, a waterfront redevelopment.

Asked whether cutting ties was a symbolic move since the museum would continue with Adjaye’s designs, Pye said: “I don’t consider them to be his designs, I consider them to be ours. This is a project we’ve been developing for a long time, co-developed with our communities and stakeholders.”

The museum’s decision deals a further blow to the architect and his practice, which has offices in London, Ghana and New York.

Since publication of the FT’s investigation, which alleged serious sexual misconduct by Adjaye against former employees, the practice has lost projects around the world including the Africa Institute in the UAE and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.

Adjaye has removed himself from a project to design the UK’s Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, and stepped down as a trustee of the Serpentine Galleries and from a role in which he advised London mayor Sadiq Khan.

In the FT article published on July 4, three women formerly employed by Adjaye Associates accused the company and its founder of different forms of exploitation — from alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment by him to a toxic work culture — that went unchecked for years.

In the same week, Adjaye disclosed private legal letters containing the names of women he allegedly sexually abused to the government of Ghana as part of efforts to save his reputation. The names were then quickly leaked to the media.

Adjaye continues to “strongly reject the very serious allegations” made in the FT’s investigation.

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