Financial Times defends Adjaye sexual misconduct reporting after London CEO calls it "unfair"

The Financial Times has said it stands by its investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against David Adjaye, describing it as “carefully prepared”, following criticism of its reporting by Adjaye Associates London CEO Lucy Tilley.

Tilley described the reporting by the Financial Times (FT) as “really unfair” and said that “there are two sides to a story” in an interview with UK architecture publication Building Design (BD).

In response to Tilley’s remarks, the FT made it clear that it stood by its investigation.

“Our investigation is carefully prepared,” an FT spokesperson told Dezeen. “We stand by our reporting.”

Tilley critical of FT reporting

Published last year, the FT investigation outlined accounts of alleged sexual misconduct by Adjaye towards three women in Adjaye Associates’ Accra office.

Adjaye denies the allegations. At the time he 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.”

In its original article, the FT set out the methods it used to corroborate the allegations made by the three women. According to the FT, this included “interviewing colleagues, family members and friends who were confided in by the women, as well as reviewing contemporaneous emails, documents and text messages.”

However, in the interview with BD, Tilley claimed the reporting was unfair.

“There are two sides to a story, and I’ve seen the evidence that was given to the FT from David,” she said.

“It wasn’t what it was made out to be in the FT, and it’s really unfair,” she added.

“Shocked is an understatement”

Tilley claimed that no legal cases have been brought against Adjaye.

“There’s no legal case against him and yet somebody can just write in the media whatever they want about somebody,” she said.

“Shocked is an understatement. You can’t just write something about somebody and cancel somebody’s reputation by media trial.”

According to the FT, the three women are represented by “an organisation that specialises in human rights and whistleblowing” but Dezeen is not aware of it bringing any legal proceedings against Adjaye.

According to the FT investigation, one of the three women reported an assault that allegedly occurred in South Africa in mid-2019 to Ghanaian police, but was told that they lacked jurisdiction to pursue a criminal investigation in another country. Later, in 2021, she made a criminal complaint to police in South Africa. The police confirmed to the FT that they had received the complaint but did not give any more information.

“It’s happening in many practices”

Adjaye is one of the world’s best-known architects, who was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2021. Following the accusations, his studio was dropped from multiple projects including a campus for The Africa Institute and the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.

In a restructuring of the studio earlier this year, Tilley was made CEO of the London studio, with Kofi Bio made CEO of the Accra office and Pascale Sablan CEO of the New York studio. Adjaye became executive chair of the group.

Although Adjaye denies the sexual misconduct allegations, he has admitted having relationships with each of the three women included in the FT investigation while he was married.

While conceding that the behaviour was unprofessional, Tilley suggested that Adjaye had been unfairly targeted by the media.

“Look, it’s happening in many practices,” she said. “Yes, it is inappropriate. Yes, you shouldn’t have affairs with staff members. But, you know, that happens not just in architecture. That happens across the world.”

“We can all judge whether that’s inappropriate or not, but why don’t the FT write about the other architects that are doing it?” she added.

“All the architects I’ve met since this has happened ask why the media selected David.”

Second Adjaye Associates CEO interview in a week

Tilley is the second Adjaye Associates CEO to speak about the allegations and their impact in interviews with architecture media outlets in recent days.

The interview with BD was published in the same week an interview with Adjaye Associates New York CEO Pascale Sablan was published in The Architect’s Newspaper.

In that interview, Sablan expressed her surprise at the allegations.

“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,” she told The Architect’s Newspaper.

“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.”

“He’s not that type of person”

It is the first time that representatives from Adjaye Associates have spoken directly about the allegations against the company’s founder.

Adjaye himself has not responded in detail to the claims, apart from his initial denial to the FT. Tilley said that he had remained silent to avoid adding to the story.

“When you’re accused of something you haven’t done, you want the world to know that you haven’t done it,” said Tilley. “You’re desperate to tell people, ‘I didn’t do that’.”

“He’s not that type of person,” she continued. “And so, imagine how he feels, or his family feel, that he can’t give his side.”

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