Bernhard Karpf, the short-lived top executive of Richard Meier & Partners Architects, has officially (and quietly) left the firm, according to The Real Deal (TRD). After nine months of leading the company post-Meier’s groundbreaking #MeToo moment, Karpf is no longer working there.
It’s unclear whether this move means Meier is back in the office again leading more work or if other the principals Vivian Lee, Reynolds Logan, or Dukho Yeon will take over operations of the practice. It is extremely odd, however, that, as TRD noted, the spot where Karpf’s photo on the firm’s website has been replaced with Meier’s. A 31-year-career working at the practice resulted in his stepping away with no major recognition for his work or little-to-no immediate reports in the design media. The updated listing of the firm’s Partners page was all that indicated the abrupt change.
The firm declined to comment on his decision to leave the firm and instead said:
“We thank Bernhardt Karpf for his many years of dedicated service and his wide-ranging work that was part of what made Richard Meier & Partners the world-renown design firm that it is today.”
The sequence of events that have occurred—or at least those that have been made public surrounding Meier’s stepping back—is what’s most opaque about the transition of leadership at the firm. Last October, AN reported the 84-year-old celebrity architect would “take a step back from day-to-day activities” after being accused of alleged sexual harassment and assault by his employees. The story broke in The New York Times in March of last year after which Meier, who founded the firm over 50 years ago, took a six-month leave of absence.
After half a year passed, Karpf became managing principal, while Lee, Logan, and Yeon were promoted to their current positions. Design partner Michael Palladino continued leading the firm’s Los Angeles office and the other three executives, partner James R. Crawford, and associate partners Mark Sparrowhawk and Alex Wuo, remained in their roles. Despite the upward movement and enhanced leadership of the above, it’s common knowledge that Meier has still had some influence on projects over the last year and has been continuing to build and maintain his network of clients around the world. When asked about Meier’s whereabouts earlier this year by Bloomberg, Karpf said he is still around. “We talk, he’s available,” he admitted, although he’s also admitted before that Meier comes into the Midtown Manhattan office twice a week.
In February, Karpf told TRD that he was keen to stay at the firm despite the recent controversy for the sake of his clients and all his history there. That same month in the interview with Bloomberg, he said that Meier hadn’t been part of regular operations at the firm for years and that it’s largely the architects in charge and all the employees who deserve the credit for keeping his legacy as a leading designer alive. But Meier’s accusers disagree, saying Karpf didn’t do enough to stand up for them and that he was in self-preservation mode. At one point, Karpf said the entire story was “last year’s news.”
In spite of Karpf’s previous intentions not to leave, six months after these statements he was gone. The firm has yet to publically name a managing principal to replace him.