Fashion's Favorite Architect Gets Award Taken Away Thanks to Harassment Allegations

Fashion’s favorite architect Peter Marino has been seriously snubbed by the a prestigious trade organization in light of his alleged pattern of discrimination and two pending lawsuits that name him as a defendant. Marino was slated to receive a Merit Award in interior design from the AIA New York, the oldest and largest chapter of the American Institute of Architects, at its annual awards event on April 20 for his work on The Lobster Club, a Japanese restaurant located in New York’s Seagram Building. But that is no longer the case.

According to a statement from the AIA New York’s executive director Benjamin Prosky, the group’s "decision does not speak to the design quality of the projects or the contributions from the respective firms’ design teams. However, he says, “We cannot in good conscience confer these awards under these circumstances.”

Richard Meier, the American abstract artist and architect, was set to take home the organization’s Architecture Merit Award for his firm's work on the Leblon Offices in Rio de Janeiro, but following a New York Times expose last week, in which 5 women accused him for sexual harassment, the award has been rescinded.

Marino – who got his start in 1978 when Andy Warhol hired him, and has since designed brick-and-mortar outposts for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Fendi and Christian Dior, among others – first came under fire in 2015 when former employee Deirdre O’Brien filed suit against Marino accusing the oft-leather-clad celebrity architect of creating a hostile work environment based on his "sexist" and "racist" ways.

According to O’Brien’s lawsuit, which was filed in New York state court in December 2015, Marino regularly referred to female employees by calling them sexist and offensive names, and on at least one occasion, “called [O’Brien] a “c–t” as her back was turned,” and subsequently had her fired days later after she threatened to quit and complained to human resources about the incident.

O’Brien further alleged that “Marino is as adept at creating an intimidating and bullying culture targeting women and people of color on the inside of his company as he is at creating an edgy architectural esthetic on the outside. Given that he was the owner and boss, no action was ever taken about his behavior.” That lawsuit is still underway in a New York court.

Less than a year later, Marino came under fire again. In May 2016, employee Jonathan Michaud lodged complaints against Marino claiming that Marino subjected him to “homophobic vitriol” and other “abuse” while he was on the clock, including installing a “suggestive, phallic” sculpture near Michaud’s desk, and “gifting him with a designer penis ring.”

Marino spoke out at the time of Michaud’s claims, asserting that the allegations had been “thoroughly and completely investigated,” and “are baseless.”

Speaking out in response to the AIA New York’s decision to rescind his award, a spokesman for Marino told Curbed:

“Peter Marino Architect (PMA) is committed to eliminating harassment from the workplace as is any other member of AIA New York. But AIA’s new policy goes too far. According to AIANY’s new policy, if there is any allegation pending—regardless of merit—AIANY bars a member from being honored. In the case of Peter Marino, had AIANY just read the public record, it would have learned that PMA has disputed the sole hostile work environment claim against the firm, a claim raised by a claimant who quit her PMA job and is trying to use the courts to have her employment reinstated.”

The statement from PMA goes on to state, “In fact, a pending motion seeks sanctions against the claimant, who has been countersued by PMA for malfeasance and insurance fraud. That dispute with a former PMA employee bears no resemblance to the type of misconduct that has garnered much recent public attention. Nor does it merit any public rebuke from the AIA or any other professional colleague.”