The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, is the work of David Adjaye, the subject of an Institute of the Arts exhibition this fall.  |  Courtesy of Adjaye Associates.  Photo by Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing

The Chicago Sun-Times has learned that David Adjaye, an international rock star architect whose work includes Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, will be “stepping down” from a major Chicago project after allegations of sexual misconduct by three of his former female employees.

Adjaye, a Ghanaian-British architect who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2017, has been working with Chicago real estate development firm Fern Hill on a plan to rework a portion of the protruding three-sided land island, bounded by North Avenue, LaSalle Drive and Clark Street in the Old Town neighborhood.

“We have spoken with Adjaye Associates and are aware of these very serious allegations,” Fern Hill spokeswoman Rebecca Carroll said Wednesday. “At this time, Sir David will step away from the project, and we will continue to move forward in the best interests of our local stakeholders and partners in this transformation opportunity for the City of Chicago.”

Adjaye's separation from the project comes after Monday's detailed report Financial timing who alleges he sexually assaulted and sexually assaulted three of the women he employed, starting in 2018.

The women – whose real names were not published in the article – told the publication the encounter had a negative impact on their careers, finances and mental health.

Adjaye denied the accusations and said he was involved in consensual relations with the women.

“I absolutely reject any claim of sexual misconduct, harassment or criminal wrongdoing,” he said in a statement. “These accusations are untrue, trouble me and my family and go against everything I stand for.”

Adjaye said he was “deeply sorry” and “ashamed to say I was in a relationship that, despite being completely consensual, blurred the line between my professional and personal life.”

The 56-year-old architect added he would “urgently seek professional assistance to learn from this mistake to ensure that it never happens again.”

The planned construction of Fern Hill would be the second US commission Adjaye lost as the architect and his firm became nearly radioactive following the allegations.

Officials in Multnomah County Oregon announced Wednesday that Adjaye is “no longer associated” with plans to design and build a major 95,000-square-foot public library.

Adjaye has also left his post as architectural adviser to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. He also stepped down as trustee of London's Serpentine Gallery.

In addition, Adjaye was also pushed back from the $180 million plan London Center for Holocaust Learning & Remembrance.

Lord Eric Pickles, British Special Envoy on Post-Holocaust issues, said Jewish Chronicle that government officials removed Adjaye from the project because it was “inappropriate for David to be involved at this time… The government must act quickly.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC as the Washington Monument looms in the background.

The Chicago project will allow Adjaye to plant an architectural flag in Chicago, a city he has had a long interest in.

In 2015, the Art Institute of Chicago hosted the first career retrospective of his work as part of the 2015 Chicago Architectural Biennial.

Adjaye was friends with former President Barack Obama – who once called the architect “genius, pure and simple” – and was a finalist to design the Obama Presidential Center now under construction in Jackson Park.

Adjaye's design, which was not selected, would have located the facility on the westernmost edge of Washington Park and on a plot of land across from King Drive just north of Garfield Blvd.

His most famous US project is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, located in the nation's capital.

“I will never forget witnessing (the museum) stand by the White House, a bold bronze statement in a city of marble, and then having the opportunity to go inside and feel how this British Ghanaian architect helped tell a uniquely American story,” Obama said at the ceremony this year. 2021 where Adjaye received a gold medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Fern Hill's efforts called for the demolition and rebuilding of the current Shell station, 130 W. North Ave., and the modernist Archway BP station at 1647 N. LaSalle Drive.

In addition to rearranging parcels, Adjaye will most likely design towers at the northwest corner of West North Avenue and North LaSalle Drive. The block's landmark Moody Church will remain.

The project was announced in 2021. The architectural renderings have not yet been released.

Lee Bey is an architectural critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and a member of the Editorial Board.

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