David Adjaye

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Sir David Adjaye

David Adjaye, Dhaka.jpg
David Adjaye at CAA Conference, Dhaka, 2013
BornSeptember 1966 (age 52)
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
AwardsRIBA Bronze Medal for Part 1 Students
BuildingsSkolkovo Moscow School of Management
Rivington Place

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library

Sir David Frank Adjaye OBE RA (born September 1966) is a British architect.[1] He is known for designing many buildings around the world.

Early life[edit]

David Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The son of a Ghanaian diplomat, David Adjaye lived in Tanzania, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon[2] before moving to Britain at the age of nine.[1] Upon graduating with a BA 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 produced at BA level worldwide. He graduated with an MA in 1993 from the Royal College of Art.


Early projects[edit]

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 Hudson publishing the catalogue of the same name. This followed their 2005 publication of Adjaye's first book, David Adjaye Houses.[3]

Firm operations[edit]

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.[4]

National Museum of African American History[edit]

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 new $500 million National Museum of African American History and Culture, a Smithsonian Institution museum, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.[5][6] His design features a crown motif from Yoruba sculpture.[6][7]

Other commissions[edit]

Exterior of the Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library.

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.[8] 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. Adjaye 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.[4]

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.[9] In 2008, he participated in Manifesta 7[10] and the Gwangju Biennale.

He designed the new building for the Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library in Washington, D.C., which opened on June 19, 2012.[11]

In 2015 he was commissioned to design a new home for the Studio Museum in Harlem.[12][13]

Recent work[edit]

Recent works include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver,[1] the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo[14] and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, completed in 2010.[15] He designed the interior of New York City's Spyscape museum.[16][17]

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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20]

Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye was on display at the Art Institute of Chicago from September 2015 to January 2016.[21]

In March 2018 Adjaye Associates’ designs for the National Cathedral of Ghana was unveiled by Ghanaian president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.[22]

In February 2019 he stated that Britain needed a black culture museum.[23]

Personal life[edit]

In 2014, Adjaye married business consultant Ashley Shaw-Scott.[24] Chris Ofili was his best man.[25]

Adjaye was featured in an advertising campaign for British luxury brand Dunhill in 2012.[26] Adjaye has also worked on numerous collaborative projects with his brother Peter Adjaye, a musician.[27][28]


In 2006, Adjaye was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize for the Whitechapel Idea Store, built on the remains of a 1960s mall. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) 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.[29] Adjaye was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to architecture.[30]


  1. ^ a b c Jeff Chu (2009). "Feature: David Adjaye". Fast Company. Archived from the original on 8 December 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
  2. ^ William Shaw (2 April 2006), "Man With a Plan", The New York Times.
  3. ^ David Adjaye, Harvard Design School. Archived 27 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b Cahal Milmo, "David Adjaye: Downfall of the showman", The Independent, 24 July 2009..
  5. ^ Jordana, Sebastian. "David Adjaye wins competition for the National Museum of African American History and Culture", 17 April 2009. ArchDaily. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b Trescott, Jacqueline (15 April 2009). "Designer Chosen for Black History Museum". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  7. ^ Kate Taylor, "The Thorny Path to a National Black Museum", The New York Times, 22 January 2011.
  8. ^ Diane Solway, "Where In The World Is David Adjaye?" W Magazine, March 2011.
  9. ^ David Adjaye Archived 14 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ David Adjaye manifesta7.
  11. ^ "Francis A. Gregory Library History". DC Public Library. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  12. ^ Jenna McKnight, "David Adjaye designs new home for Harlem's Studio Museum", Dezeen, July 7, 2015.
  13. ^ Jennifer Smith, "Harlem’s Studio Museum Will Expand", The Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2015.
  14. ^ Alexander Topping, Architect to Hollywood stars attempts to save firm from financial collapse, The Guardian, 24 July 2009.
  15. ^ SKOLKOVO Campus, Moscow. Archived 23 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Passy, Charles (15 October 2017). "The Spying Game as a Fun Activity, at a Price". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  17. ^ Hamilton, William (29 March 2018). "I Spy at New York's Museum of Deception". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Senior Fellows :: DesignIntelligence". 6 November 2007. Archived from the original on 6 November 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  19. ^ David Adjaye, LSE Cities.
  20. ^ "The Team - Petronia City". Petronia City. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  21. ^ artic.edu Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye
  22. ^ "David Adjaye Unveils Designs for the National Cathedral of Ghana". architecturaldigest.com. 6 March 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Black culture museum for UK 'long overdue'". 2 February 2019 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  24. ^ "Ghanaian-British Architect David Adjaye weds Ashley Shaw-Scott", BellaNaija, 18 January 2014.
  25. ^ Rykesha Hudson, "Renowned British-Ghanaian Architect Weds Model", The Voice, 21 January 2014.
  26. ^ "David Adjaye by Alfred Dunhill". YouTube.
  27. ^ "Musicity", The Architecture Foundation, 19 April 2011.
  28. ^ "MEETING ARCHITECTURE Part 5: David Adjaye and Peter Adjaye – MAXXI", Nero.
  29. ^ MIT Office for the Arts. "McDermott Award Past Recipients". Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  30. ^ "No. 61803". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2016. p. N2.
  31. ^ Designer of the Year Award, Design Miami. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  32. ^ "David Adjaye tops PowerList 2013", The Guardian, 25 October 2012.

External links[edit]