David Adjaye backs out of Chicago project amid sexual assault allegations

Fern Hill will move forward with North Side development

A photo illustration of Adjaye Associates' David Adjaye (Getty, Adjaye Associates)

A photo illustration of Adjaye Associates’ David Adjaye (Getty, Adjaye Associates)

Acclaimed architect David Adjaye is stepping away from his first Chicago project in the wake

of allegations ranging from sexual harassment and assault to fostering a toxic work environment.

Adjaye, who’s designed iconic structures like the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., was poised to play a considerable role in a massive development in the North Side’s Old Town area. Now, the Ghanaian-British architect is backing out of the project in the wake of three former female employees accusing Adjaye of sexual misconduct, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Adjaye, 56, denies wrongdoing and said the relations he had with these women were consensual. Fern Hill, the project’s developer, plans to move forward without the famed architect on the development, which is slated to include at least one residential high-rise on a parking lot at the corner of LaSalle Street and North Avenue. The project could encompass additional building components in the area later on.

“We have spoken with Adjaye Associates and are aware of these very serious allegations,” a Fern Hill spokeswoman told the outlet. “At this time, Sir David will step away from the project, and we will continue to move forward in the best interest of our local stakeholders and partners in this transformational opportunity for the city of Chicago.”

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Fern Hill, led by former Related Midwest executive Nick Anderson, has not disclosed whether it’s begun its search for a new architect to take over the development.

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The firm is still seeking zoning approval from the city, and hasn’t revealed specific details or renderings of its building plans for the project, which could encompass several other parcels aside from the parking lot at North and LaSalle on a triangular slice bounded by those two roads and Clark Street that, at its northern end, holds the Moody Church. The church is selling Fern Hill some of the land for its plans.

Adjaye has stepped away or been removed from several other projects in light of the allegations. He will no longer be the architectural adviser to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, nor will he design the Holocaust museum in London or a library in Oregon.

— Quinn Donoghue