Key Data and Biography David Adjaye OBE, Principal Architect of Adjaye Associates, serves as one of the world’s leading architects of his generation. Described as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision; his ingenious design and the sculptural quality of his buildings, alongside his use of materials and showcasing of light have defined his reputation and allowed him to tell a bespoke story for each project throughout his extensive and diverse portfolio. Since establishing Adjaye Associates in 2000, he has crafted a team with this same approach, resulting in a global unit that is multicultural, which is stimulated by the broadest possible perspective, and is characterised by a sense of curiosity and a research-based methodology. As Principal Architect, he is integral to each project and has led the team to win a number of prestigious commissions.
He was born in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania to a Ghanaian diplomat family. His childhood was pan-African, with time spent living in East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and North Africa before he settled in London at the age of thirteen. Adjaye says “unlike people who may have had an education or a stable upbringing in one or two places, I was forced from a very early age to negotiate a wide variety of ethnicities, religions, and cultural constructions. By the time I was thirteen, I thought that was normal, and that was how the world was. It gave me a kind of edge in an international global world, which we find increasingly in the twenty first century. So I think, in a way, my parents bringing me up the way they did prepared me for the world that we now inherit and live in. That is intrinsic to my approach toward design, which always seeks to be highly sensitive to the cultural framework of different peoples. Most of my work has always been in cosmopolitan, metropolitan cities or places where differences are always being negotiated. A sensitivity to that is at the heart of my practice.”
The biggest and most recent commission to date is the $500million project to design the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American Culture and History (NMAAHC). Leading the Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group (FAB) team, he has created a design that embodies the African American spirit; majestic yet exuberant, dignified yet triumphant. The ambition is to create a building worthy of the museum’s vision and its prominent place on the National Mall,
in Washington DC. “When you see this building, you get the sense of an upward mobility. And when you look at the way the circulation works, everything lifts you up into the light. This is not a story about past trauma. For me, the story is one that’s extremely uplifting, as a kind of world story. It’s not a story of a people that were taken down, but actually a people that overcame and transformed an entire superpower into what it is today. The sacrifices of the African-American people have made America better.” (David Adjaye).
With a reputation established in the UK, David Adjaye’s work holds no international bounds. Completed works include: two neighbourhood libraries in Washington DC (2012), Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO (2010); The Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo (2005); The Bernie Grant Arts Centre in London (2007); the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver (2007); Rivington Place – a visual arts centre in London (2007); and the Idea Stores on Chrisp Street (2004) and Whitechapel (2005) – two pioneering new libraries in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The former was nominated for the Stirling Prize in 2006, received a RIBA Building Award in 2005 and has been exhibited at the VIII Venice Biennale of Architecture (2002 and 2005) and the Sao Paulo Biennial (2003).
As a son of Africa, it has filled him with the greatest pride to have been contributing to the continent’s landscape since 2010. A number of projects, from educational complexes to private residences have been commissioned, giving Adjaye and his team the opportunity to make an impact in Profileof David Adjaye Principal, Adjaye Associates a significant and positive way. Current projects in Ghana include the five star Princes Town Resort near Axim in the Western region. The design has been driven by the natural topography of the site. Located adjacent to a historic fort, the resort is a discreet insertion into a spectacular coastline on the Gulf of Guinea. Elmina College is an international boarding school, a project which establishes a meaningful dialogue with African modernity – its expression and its historical references. Set within 116 acres of landscaped gardens, the campus comprises teaching and sporting facilities, including an Olympic size swimming pool, sports centre, library, auditorium, and student and staff residences. Finally, Roman Ridge Gardens is a 5.5 acre site in Accra that includes a combination of luxury apartments and penthouses. There are also feasibility studies for mixed use developments on Independence Avenue and 28 February Road – in the commercial district of Accra.
In addition, Adjaye is working on the design and development of a multi arts centre in Portugal for the Africa. Cont Arts organization and a concept store in Lagos, Nigeria. The project includes offices for a design consultancy headed by Reni Folawiyo, as well as exhibition spaces for objets d’art, offices for a design consultancy and sales areas for design objects created in collaboration with artisans and crafts people originating from West Africa and beyond.
All of the above mentioned projects have succeeded Adjaye’s initial reputation developed through his private residential commissions; Sunken House, McGregor House, LN House and Montauk to name a few. In addition, he frequently collaborates with innovative contemporary artists and curators to create unique spaces for art. Examples include; the exhibition design in 2010 for the all-video SITE Santa Fe Eighth International Biennial Exhibition “the dissolve”, Olafur Eliasson’s “Your black horizon” – a light installation designed by Adjaye, commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary and inaugurated in June 2005 as an official project at the 51st Venice Biennale. And Chris Ofili’s “The Upper Room”, exhibited 1999- 2002 and again in 2010 – thirteen paintings displayed in an environment designed by Adjaye that is now in the permanent collection of Tate Britain. Most recently, he has collaborated with the artist, Doug Aitken, on an installation for the Liverpool Biennial in 2012.
Over the course of 10 years, Adjaye travelled and photographed each African capital city, which culminated as “Urban Africa: David Adjaye’s Photographic Survey” – a unique geo-cultural catalogue profiling the African city in a global context. Presented in an exhibition by the Design Museum in 2010 it has since toured globally. The project has been documented in a book – African Metropolitan Architecture, published in 2011 and picked as a Financial Times “favourite read” for that year.
Adjaye earned his B. Arch. from London South Bank University and graduated with a M.A. Arch. from the Royal College of Art in 1993 where he won the RIBA Bronze Medal. In 2007 he received an honorary doctorate of the arts from the University of East London. He went on to work at David Chipperfield Architects and then Eduardo Souto de Moura Architects in Oporto, before settling in London to open his own practice.
His commitment to education extends to lecturing internationally; he was the first Louis Khan visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and is the Kenzo Tange Professor in Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Previously a unit tutor at the Architectural Association, David was also a lecturer at the Royal College of Art. He currently holds a Visiting Professor post at Princeton University School of Architecture. Adjaye is a RIBA CharteredMember, an AIA Honorary Fellow, a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Amongst his professional and academic achievements, David’s 2007 OBE award for services to architecture in the Queen’s birthday honours list, ranks highly.
Since publishing his first book, David Adjaye Houses: Recycling, Reconfiguring (Thames & Hudson) in May 2005, Adjaye has gone on to publish many more, including; David Adjaye Output (Toto) July 2010, David Adjaye – Horizon/ Monoforms (Albion) January 2007 and more recently David Adjaye A House Designed for An Art Collector (Rizzoli) March 2010.
The exhibitions also continue, 2011 saw the launch of “Material Table” at The Aram Gallery – an exhibition that presented an alchemy of materials across a number and range of Adjaye Associates’ projects. Urban Africa continues as previously mentioned. A number of other travelling exhibitions are being planned for 2013.
Adjaye has co-presented two television series of Dreamspaces for the BBC, a six-part series on contemporary architecture, and hosted two BBC radio programmes; the first featured an interview with Oscar Niemeyer and the second with Charles Correa. In June 2005 he presented the TV programme “Building Africa: Architecture of a Continent”. A documentary of his career, thus far, is currently in the works.