David Adjaye, principal of Adjaye Associates is an award-winning architect of African descent. Adjaye, born in Tanzania though of Ghanian heritage moved to London to study architecture. David spent his early formative years travelling throughout Africa before settling in the UK to complete his education and begin his architectural career. He is now recognized as one of the leading architects of his generation in the U.K. He earned his BA at London South Bank university, before graduating with an MA in 1993 from the Royal college of art.
At 36, David Adjaye was tagged by one leading London newspapers “most fashionable architect of the moment”. His unique designs, often with a cool edge have helped make the African-born professional one of the rising new stars in his field. His London-based Adjaye Associates takes on both residential and retail commissions, and has become known for its innovative mix of standard construction staples–such as treated wood and concrete new high-tech materials. As Mr. Adjaye’s fame rises, becoming known not only in the UK, but throughout the world, it becomes easy to typecast him as an African architect. Indeed, many of his ideas are borne of African architectural, planning, and design ideals, but these concepts have become design informants rather than dictators of particular typologies.
Influenced by his early life traveling throughout Africa, as well as his more recent documentation of African cities ‘Urban Africa’, David Adjaye has begun to include some of these African design principles into his western architectural projects. Three such projects successfully incorporating these concepts are the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, The Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, and Rivington Place in Shoreditch.
David understands his status as a role model for young people and lectures frequently. He was the first Louis Khan visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, also the Kenzo Tange Professor in Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Previously a tutor at the Architectural Association, David has also been a lecturer at the Royal College of Art where he received his MA in architecture in 1993. That same year he was awarded the RIBA First Prize Bronze Medal. Following this, he trained at David Chipperfield Architects and then Eduardo Souto de Moura Architects in Oporto.
Adjaye’s work uniquely incorporates many of these African concepts of space and form into a modern western application, rather than providing simplified reiterations of African designs. Whether inspired by the graphic nature of a piece of African art or craft, or inspired by the energetic use of public spaces, Adjaye succeeds in developing this unique ethnic and architectural blend, helping to invigorate an architectural and cultural attitude that has long ignored its imperialist history.
(Photo’s courtesy of various sources)