Sir David Adjaye is a Ghanaian-British architect, born in Tanzania on September 22 1966, who is known to imbue with his community-driven projects and creative sensibilities.
The RIBA Bronze Medal-winner in 1993, Adjaye was appointed the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2007. He has also won MIT Office for the Arts, McDermott award in 2016, among many others. Recently announced as the winner of the 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, His work extends from designing private houses, furniture selections, product designs, exhibitions, and temporary pavilions to significant art centres, civic buildings, and master plans. His most notable works include the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management.
The visionary architect believes that ultimately architecture is a social act. It is about constructing buildings that acknowledge and understand their histories, whilst creating something entirely new to serve communities into their futures.
Here are ten things you probably did not know about David Adjaye:
1) Documented 54 African Cities
Adjaye spent over ten years documenting fifty-four major African cities in his adulthood. It was a project that evolved out of his travels and called it the Adjaye Africa Architecture: A Photographic Survey of Metropolitan Architecture. In this project, he photographed and documented every city, assembled and in 2011 he published the images as a seven-volume set. He also showcased a brief urban history, fact file, maps and satellite representation that come together in bringing out what African architecture is and what it can be.
2) Childhood Travels
David, in his childhood, moved all over the world to places such as Kampala, Nairobi, Cairo, Beirut, Accra, and Jeddah as his father Affram was a diplomat. He was born into a vibrant era of hope, where Kwame Nkrumah had won the country independence from the British in 1957, and the spirit of liberty was one that influenced the travels exposing him to diverse cultures and the architecture of varied regions.
3) Understanding Architecture
Adjaye while visiting his partially disabled brother in his specialized school, He noted how inefficient the facility was and understood that architecture needs to serve the people by taking them to the realm of egalitarianism. He started designing a facility that would provide better care for disabled people. He believes that a functional design is way more important than aesthetic design.
4) Early Works
Adjaye spent a short term working with the architectural studios of David Chipperfield in London and later left for Portugal where he studied with Eduardo Souto de Moura before attending his graduate school. It was in Portugal that Adjaye fed his creative drive of architecture and discovered the essence of time, touch and value in numerous materials.
5) Combining Architecture With Sound
Adjaye worked on a collaborative project along with his musician brother Peter Adjaye and released a limited edition vinyl record called Dialogues. Peter recorded tracks which feature and represent buildings by David, including the Dirty House in London to the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway, converting built work into a musical composition. The tracks have an amalgamation of classical instruments, such as violins and gongs, with modern sounds and a hint of 90s-era hip-hop.
Adjaye is not just limited to designing the field of architecture but a variety of furniture, clothing, textiles and trophies. He created Monoforms, which is an open-ended furniture system based on the language of form. It takes Inspiration from desert-scapes and the rock architecture of Petra. He also designed the Washington Furniture Collection as well as the Moroso Double-Zero collection, influenced by art-deco.
7) Stephen Curry Shoe Design
In January 2020, Stephen Curry, a basketball player, designed sneakers that were inspired by the famous work of David Adjaye in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The hues of brown, olive, bronze and neon green were taken from the palettes of the museum and incredible art by Adjaye to adorn the shoe.
8) Inspired by African architecture
David Adjaye is an immense advocate of African architecture. Adjaye spent a lot of time in understanding Africa’s rich history as well as its contributions to the world of architecture. He was quite intrigued by the skills of the slaves and their influence on American architecture. In an interview with CNN, he named Konark Temple (Luxor), Uganda Martyrs Catholic Shrine Namugongo (Uganda) and Great Mosque of Djenne (Mali) as his top 3 favourite buildings. He also mentions that it was on his trip to Japan, where he comprehended the need to celebrate the critical values of African culture and architecture.
9) 100 most influential people of 2017
In 2017, Adjaye made it in the Time magazine for the 100 most influential people and was the only architect in the list. His work is intensely rooted in both the present scenarios and the complex context of the past. He also envisioned new ways to reflect the culture in the built environment.
10) Adjaye Associates
In 1994, David Adjaye first established an architectural practice based in North London with William Russell called Adjaye & Russell. However, In 2000, Adjaye established his studio called Adjaye Associates. The firm has now established offices in Accra, London and New York and has completed works in various parts of Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. In 2005, the first book by Adjaye, David Adjaye Houses, was published. Followed by this, in January 2006, the firm had its first solo exhibition, David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings, at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.