After a blistering expose in the New York Times detailed how renowned architect Richard Meier allegedly sexually harassed five women, Meier is finally stepping away from day-to-day operations of the firm he founded.
Though Meier took a six month leave of absence when the news broke, his role in the future of Richard Meier & Partners is now clearer: The firm announced this week that he will “step back from day-to-day activities and support the leadership transition” of new Managing Principal Bernhard Karpf. According to Curbed, Meier will no longer handle business and administrative decisions and won’t be coming into the office every day. However, he will still be involved in supporting the firm’s leadership, including several new partners who’ve been promoted in the last few months.
When the Times broke the story in March 2018, it was architecture’s first #MeToo moment–one that sparked one person to start a “Shitty Architecture Men” list to document a wide range of allegations against particular men, both prominent and otherwise. Some architecture institutions, many of which had honored Meier, closed exhibitions featuring him and even rescinded some of his awards. Female leaders spoke out against the widespread discrimination and harassment that exists in architecture, which is a heavily male-dominated profession.
The allegations brought up broader questions about how to respond: After all, how do you boycott a building? How do you stop harassment in design overall? Most significantly, it forced an entire industry to reckon with how its power structures–and its reverence of a lone (male) genius–allow for abuse in the first place.
Meier’s semi-retirement shows that there have been some professional repercussions for his behavior, but his ability to maintain influence within his firm shows that it’s far from complete. After all, despite the success of the #MeToo movement, very few powerful men have truly been held to account.