Sir David Frank Adjaye OBE RA (born September 22, 1966) is a Ghanaian-British architect. He is known for designing many iconic buildings around the world, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management.

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Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The only son of a Ghanaian diplomat, he stayed in Tanzania, Egypt, Yemen, and Lebanon before moving to Britain at the age of nine. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Architecture from London South Bank University in 1990, he was nominated for the RIBA President’s Medals and won the RIBA Bronze Medal for the best design project submitted at BA level worldwide. He graduated with an MA in 1993 from the Royal College of Art.

Adjaye Associates, led by Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye, revealed their vision for Le Mémorial des Martyrs (The Martyrs Memorial) in Niamey – the largest city of the West African country of Niger. The news came following the ground-breaking ceremony of the memorial, which took place on October 14, 2020.

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Adjaye Associates has recently developed a project in Niamey, Niger to give tribute to those that lost their lives in the fight against terrorism on the country’s southern and western borders. The Martyrs Memorial is in fact “ a tangible documentation of the continuous fight against extremist entities and the soldiers who have fallen in the process”.

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Devising the Architecture, Landscape, site plan and Interiors, Adjaye Associates formulated a 4500 m² tribute in the capital of Niger, including a memorial, new urban plaza, and multi-purpose civic gathering space. Situated within the heart of the city, on a raised triangular plot, the design of the project holds its site to create a gently inclined plane framing the monument against the sky to develop an experience that disconnects one from the every-day chaos of the city.

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In partnership with Steensen Varming for Green building design & Lighting Design, the Martyrs Memorial creates “a labyrinth of abstraction”, through a rhythmic interplay of light, shadow, and geometries. Additionally, the effect of the underground maze is amplified by a 20-meter high forest of colonnades that merges with the shading canopy of trees on both sides of the project. The building transforms into a pure space that respects the dead and acts in service to the living.

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Adjaye Associates say, “each pillar symbolizes the individuals lost, extending towards the Niamey sky whilst grounded and situated in its urban context”.

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The Martyrs Memorial brings the sacred and the civic together in such a way that amalgamates both the citizen and the city. Through the interaction of negatives and voids, the Martyrs Memorial becomes a sacred space—an in-between moment for meaningful reflection on the past and signaling for a peaceful future.

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Planned according to the local Sahelian climate, the design puts in place a pliable, multi-use ground-level civic space enabling a respite from the Niger heat, where both religious and city-organized events take place. On another hand, the colonnades of the labyrinth work as thermal chimneys that mitigate the heat build-up, and circulate air to the main space. 

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During the night, rays of light projecting from the pillars become part of the urban skyline, acting as both a beacon of remembrance and a visual guide towards the civic heart of Niamey.

The entire structure is composed of robust materials that both contribute to the sensory part of the design, as well as practically stand the test of time, requiring the least maintenance. 

Concrete, the primary material, and feature materials such as bronze colored frames and perforated steel panels, add to both the endurance and resilience of the structure. 

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Light is provided into this dark space through geometric perforations/openings into the facade creating a sanctuary punctuated by a tessellated shadow effect.

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“Buildings are deeply emotive structures which form our psyche. People think they’re just things they maneuver through, but the makeup of a person is influenced by the nature of spaces.”

-David Adjaye

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Author

Prachi Surana is a budding Architect, studying in the Final Year B. Arch at BNCA, Pune. She is a dreamer, believer, hard worker and believes in the power of the Good. Prachi spends her time reading, painting, travelling, writing and working on the Design Team for NASA, India.

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