Architect Richard Meier Steps Down After Harassment Allegations

Posted October 9, 2018 1:11 p.m. EDT

Seven months after taking a leave of absence following sexual harassment allegations, prominent architect Richard Meier is stepping down from the leadership of his firm, the office announced Tuesday.

“Founder Richard Meier will step back from day-to-day activities and support the leadership transition of the firm he founded in 1963,” the announcement said. “He will remain available to colleagues and clients who seek his vast experience and counsel. The firm will maintain and develop the rigorous design philosophy that Richard pioneered.”

The announcement contradicted what Meier, 83, said in a phone interview in September. “I’m back at work later this month,” he said. “I’m still at the top. I have no plans to retire.”

In March, five women, including four who had worked for his firm, accused Meier of sexual harassment, including episodes in which they said he exposed himself or touched them inappropriately.

Additional women subsequently came forward to describe similar experiences as well as a culture at the firm that looked the other way.

When he went on leave, he said of the accusations: “While our recollections may differ, I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my behavior.” But in the interview last month, he said: “People can say whatever they want. I didn’t recognize one of them. I did not know who they were. I did not know their names. I focus on doing the work.”

He also said last month that he had taken a leave for health reasons, not because of the accusations.

Meier, a winner of the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s top award, has designed noteworthy buildings like the Getty Center in Los Angeles. He is known as one of the world’s “starchitects,” along with major names like Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas.

The firm will continue to be known as Richard Meier & Partners Architects. Stella Lee, who accused Meier of exposing himself to her, said that maintaining the name “tells me that the partners believe that Richard Meier’s brand will continue to have commercial value going forward.”

“I do not think this will be the case, but in a post-Kavanaugh era, it remains to be seen,” Lee said. “It is really up to their prospective clients to decide the value of his legacy.”

Bernhard Karpf will now serve as the managing principal of the firm. Vivian Lee, Reynolds Logan and Dukho Yeon have been promoted to principals. Michael Palladino, who has worked as a partner and principal designer at the firm for more than three decades, will continue to lead the West Coast activities with Jim Crawford.

“I appreciate and support Richard Meier’s decision to undertake this transition,” Palladino said in a statement. “I have every confidence that with the support of the team in the New York office, this leadership transition will be seamless and successful.”