The American Institute of Architects’ New York chapter announced today that it is rescinding its Design Award honor from two projects helmed by architects who have been accused of sexual harassment and other “inappropriate and unacceptable behavior,” per the organization’s letter explaining its decision.
The architects named are Richard Meier and Peter Marino, the latter of whom is behind The Getty on Tenth Avenue, among other NYC developments.
The projects are Richard Meier & Partners Architects’ Leblon Offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which was given the Architecture Merit Award, and Peter Marino Architect’s renovation of The Lobster Club in New York City, which was given the Interior Merit Award.
“Our decision does not speak to the design quality of the projects or the contributions from the respective firms’ design teams,” AIANY executive director Benjamin Prosky wrote in the letter. “Rather we cannot in good conscience confer these awards under these circumstances.”
A New York Times investigation revealed that Meier, a Pritzker Prize–winning architect who has designed several New York City buildings, has been accused of sexual harassment by five women over a period spanning 30 years. Following the publication of the accusations, Meier announced that he would take a six-week leave from his firm, where he has served as founder and managing partner.
Meier & Partners had no comment on AIANY’s decision.
While Marino has not had allegations levied against him recently, he has been at the center of several lawsuits in which he was accused of sexual harassment and racial discrimination. In 2015, Marino was sued by a former employee, Deidre O’Brien, who claimed he made sexist and racist remarks to her and other employees. In 2016, a textile designer filed a sexual harassment suit against the architect. Per a spokesperson for Peter Marino Architect (PMA), the 2016 suit was resolved, while Marino has since filed a countersuit against O’Brien.
In response to AIANY’s decision, Peter Marino Architect provided Curbed NY with this statement:
PMA is committed to eliminating harassment from the workplace as is any other member of AIA New York. But AIA’s new policy goes too far. According to AIANY’s new policy, if there is any allegation pending—regardless of merit—AIANY bars a member from being honored. In the case of Peter Marino, had AIANY just read the public record, it would have learned that PMA has disputed the sole hostile work environment claim against the firm, a claim raised by a claimant who quit her PMA job and is trying to use the courts to have her employment reinstated. In fact a pending motion seeks sanctions against the claimant, who has been countersued by PMA for malfeasance and insurance fraud. That dispute with a former PMA employee bears no resemblance to the type of misconduct that has garnered much recent public attention. Nor does it merit any public rebuke from the AIA or any other professional colleague.
In his letter, Prosky noted that AIANY would take action within its community, including providing “resources and support to address any and all alleged harassment,” along with “lobbying for updates to official AIA policies and procedures to make it explicit that harassment is unacceptable.”
“This is a necessary step for the profession of architecture, to say publicly that quality of work in no way excuses harassment and abusive behavior,” Curbed’s architecture critic, Alexandra Lange, tells Curbed NY. “It’s also important that the AIANY draws a line between the harasser and his firm: these are huge businesses that have for too long been represented in the public eye by a single individual. It is now up to firms how they want to deal with with such individuals. I hope more firms will be public about their harassment policies—and enforce them up and down the hierarchy.”
Anyone with information about alleged misconduct in the architecture, design, and development industries can contact Curbed’s editor-in-chief, Kelsey Keith, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are accustomed to discussing sensitive information and stories over the phone, so feel free to send an email asking for a phone call.