David Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The son of a Ghanaian diplomat, David Adjaye lived in Tanzania,Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon before moving to Britain at the age of nine. He earned a BA at London South Bank University, before graduating with an MA in 1993 from the Royal College of Art.
In 1993, the same year of graduation, Adjaye won the RIBA President’s Medals Students Award, a prize offered for RIBA Part 1 projects, normally won by students who have only completed a bachelor’s degree. Previously a unit tutor at the Architectural Association, he was also a lecturer at the Royal College of Art. After very short terms of work with the architectural studios of David Chipperfield (London) and Eduardo Souto de Moura(Porto), Adjaye established a practice with William Russell in 1994 called Adjaye & Russell, based in North London. This office was disbanded in 2000 and Adjaye established his own eponymous studio at this point.
The studio’s first solo exhibition, David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings, was shown at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in January 2006, with Thames and Hudsonpublishing the catalogue of the same name. This followed their 2005 publication of Adjaye’s first book, David Adjaye Houses.
In February 2009, the cancellation or postponement of four projects in Europe and Asia forced the firm to enter into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), a deal to stave off insolvency proceedings which prevents financial collapse by rescheduling debts – estimated at about £1m – to creditors.
National Museum of African American History
On 15 April 2009, he was selected as a team of architects, which includes the Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond and SmithGroup, to design the $500 million new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. His design features a crown motif from Yoruba sculpture.
Alongside his international commissions, Adjaye’s work spans exhibitions, private homes and artist collaborations. He built homes for the designer Alexander McQueen, artist Jake Chapman, photographer Juergen Teller, actor Ewan McGregor, and artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster. For artist Chris Ofili, he designed a new studio and a beach house in Port of Spain. He worked with Ofili to create an environment for The Upper Room, which was later acquired by Tate Britain and caused a nationwide media debate. He also collaborated with artist Olafur Eliasson to create a light installation, Your black horizon, at the 2005 Venice Biennale. He has also worked on the art project Sankalpa with director Shekhar Kapur. Adjaye coauthored two seasons of BBC’s Dreamspaces television series and hosts a BBC radio programme. In June 2005, he presented the documentary Building Africa: Architecture of a Continent. In 2008, he participated in Manifesta 7 and the Gwangju Biennale.
Recent works include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, completed in 2010.
Adjaye currently holds a Visiting Professor post at Princeton University School of Architecture. He was the first Louis Kahn visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and was the Kenzo Tange Professor in Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design. In addition, he is a RIBA Chartered Member, an AIA Honorary Fellow, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council. He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Barcelona Institute of Architecture and also serves as member of the Advisory Boards of the Barcelona Institute of Architecture and the LSE Cities Programme.
He was part of the team that designed the Petronia city project in the heart of Nana Kwame Bediako’s Wonda World Estates 2000-acre mixed-use city development project, catering to the fast-growing oil and gas and mining sectors in the Western Region of Ghana.
Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye was on display at the Art Institute of Chicago from September 2015 to January 2016.
In 2014, Adjaye married business consultant Ashley Shaw-Scott. Chris Ofili was his best man.
Adjaye was featured in an advertising campaign for British luxury brand Dunhill in 2012. Adjaye has also worked on numerous collaborative projects with his brother Peter Adjaye, a musician.
In 2006, Adjaye was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize for the Whitechapel Idea Store, built on the remains of a 1960s mall. He received the title of OBE from the Queen in 2007 for services to British architecture. In 2016 he received the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s McDermott award, a $100,000 prize for excellence in the arts.
- RIBA – Bronze Medal for Part 1 Students – 1993
- Design Futures Council Senior Fellow
- Design Miami/ Designer of the Year Award – 2011
- Powerlist: Britain’s Most Influential Black Person – 2012
He is one of the world’s most in-demand architects, designing buildings throughout the globe.
Below is Adjaye’s Skolkovo School of Management building in Moscow, Russia
With over 50 built projects across the world, David Adjaye is rapidly emerging as a major international figure in architecture and design. Rather than advancing a signature architectural style, Adjaye’s structures address local concerns and conditions through both a historical understanding of context and a global understanding of modernism. The first comprehensive museum survey devoted to Adjaye, this exhibition offers an in-depth overview of the architect’s distinct approach and visual language with a dynamic installation design conceived by Adjaye Associates.
Of African ancestry and raised in Ghana, the Middle East, and England, Adjaye now has offices in London, New York, Berlin, and Accra. Like many international architects, he is itinerant, and his practices defy cultural borders and geopolitical categories. However, Adjaye is unique in being an African-born architect working in a global landscape. Having traveled the world studying buildings and architectural styles, most recently and extensively in Africa, he is acutely sensitive to the effects of location. A proponent for architecture from beyond the Western canon, he brings a distinctive contemporary “Afropolitan” view to his various projects.
While Adjaye has never adhered to a discrete style, his projects coalesce around certain ideas. Often set in cities struggling with diversity and difference, his public buildings provide spaces that foster links among people and explore how neighborhoods evolve, how new communities are created, and how unexpected junctures weave diverse urban identities and experiences into the tapestry of multiculturalism. Rethinking conventions, his designs speak to the specific time and place in which they were made. These ideas are expressed in important recent projects, such as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a building that faces history head-on, bringing together references from across Africa and America in a visually and physically evocative design.
This exhibition, comprising furniture, housing, public buildings, and master plans, fills the first-floor Abbott Galleries and the second-floor architecture and design galleries in the Modern Wing. In addition to drawings, sketches, models, and building mock-ups, a specially commissioned film featuring Adjaye’s collaborators—an international roster of artists, the exhibition curators, and other influential figures in the art world—helps bring his projects to life and makes clear the important role that Adjaye plays in contemporary architecture today.