Inspiration Architecture

David Adjaye’s Iconic Buildings

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Forging a new kind of  global architecture, David Adjaye has been selected by the Wallstreet Journal Magazine as Architecture Innovator 2013. Adjaye, born in Tanzania of Ghanaian parents, raised in Uganda, lived in Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen before moving to London and New York. An always alert visionary, he is the leading architect of this cosmopolitan generation of Africans.

Gwangju, Kampala, Washington.  The architect’s iconic buildings are to found from Manhattan to Moscow, from London to Lagos. His recent projects include the Smithsonian’s African American Museum in Washington, the Reading Room Pavillon at the Gwangju Biennale and a groundbreaking Urban Regeneration Project in Kampala, Uganda.

Renowned for an eclectic material and colour palette and a capacity to unfold cinematically, David Adjaye’s buildings differ in form and style, yet are unified by their ability to challenge typologies and to generate a dynamic cultural discourse. Projects range in scale from private houses, exhibitions and temporary pavilions to major arts centres, civic buildings and masterplans in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

As Adjaye’s father was a diplomat, David, the eldest of three sons, had a multinational upbringing. It was a time, and a spirit, that remains a touchstone for the architect, as he told the Wallstreet Journal Magazine:

“My father articulated a set of ideals to me, always very softly. Just certain points about being strong about your identity, about who you are and not being intimidated by other cultures. And to understand that there’s a world that exists beyond national boundaries.”

As WSJ’s Ian Volner writes in his portrait of David Adjaye, those ideals have reemerged in Adjaye’s design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., expected to open in 2015. It is a building replete with African motifs. The structure appears as stacked inverted pyramids, a silhouette inspired, says Adjaye, by Yoruban sculpture. The patterning of the decorative bronze grilles on the museum’s façade are reminiscent of African metalwork, the thatched lattices of some traditional African dwellings. The museum’s very form, seems to suggest the earthy monumentality of such ancient African sites as Timbuktu and Great Zimbabwe.

Another of Adjaye’s current projects is Africa’s largest planned urban redevelopment project, the regeneration of 160 acres of the Naguru-Nakawa areas of Kampala, Uganda. It is getting underway with the Made In Africa Foundation. Ozwald Boateng, international designer and co-founder of the foundation and Chris Cleverly, its CEO, alongside David Adjaye, recently presented their vision to the Government of Uganda on the Foundation’s lead project.

In line with its purpose to advance major infrastructure projects in Africa, the Made in Africa Foundation has provided financial support for completion of Master Plans and Feasibility Studies for the Project, working closely with the developer, Irish billionaire Brian Comer of Comer Group, and influential Ugandan entrepreneur, Prince Hassan Kimbugwe. Once completed, the Naguru-Nakawa project will provide 3,500 residential units, a church, school, offices, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and leisure facilities.

Together with bestselling author Taiye Selasi (Ghana must Go) David Adjaye has been invited to design the spectacular wooden River Reading Room, one of the eight follies at the South Korean Gwangju Biennale. The follies present a “detour into delirium” throughout the city of Gwangju, galvanizing the space between the everyday and the utopian, examining the present-day constitution of public space as a political arena. Other pavillons have been designed for instance by Ai Weiwei, Rem Koolhaas and Eyal Weizman.

David Adjaye also has been member of the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture Master Jury in 2013.


Please have a look at other projects of David Adjaye on the architect’s website. Get updates on their Facebook Page and follow them on Twitter.