CONGRATULATIONS DAVID ADJAYE! I had the wonderful opportunity to meet David Adjaye at the Chicago Architectural Biennial 2015. He was quietly walking around observing some the designs in the room when we met in the middle of the room. My friend who had invited me whispered in my ear “that’s David Adjaye and he is the architect for the National Museum of African American History and Culture”.
I was apprehensive on my approach but with her encouragement, I introduced myself and he was gracious enough to take a picture. It was a humbling experience and it was a wonderful chance to have a brief conversation with a man that has designed a legacy of our history for many generations.
Sir David Adjaye OBE, the Ghanaian British architect, has been selected as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Adjaye, whose National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, D.C., in September, is the only architect and designer to make the annual list of the world’s movers and shakers.
The influencers, who include, among others, presidents, entertainers, business people, and scientists, are divided into five categories: Pioneers, Artists, Leaders, Titans, and Icons. The 50-year-old architect and founder of Adjaye Associates was nominated in the Icons category alongside U.S. Rep. John Lewis (who introduced a bill in 1988 to create a national African American museum in Washington), actress Viola Davis, writer Margaret Atwood, and Guatemalan judge Thelma Aldana.
Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, wrote in her introduction of Adjaye: “His work—deeply rooted in both the present moment and the complex context of history—has envisioned new ways for culture to be represented and reflected in the built environment.” Golden and Adjaye are currently working together on a new building for the museum.
Adjaye sees it partly as a monument, like the other museums and the memorials to presidents that occupy the Mall, and like them it has a formal symmetry, but he also wants to be different from them. So it has a distinctive tiered shape, with walls inclining outwards as they rise, which he says is derived from the forms of Yoruba craftsmen in the region of Africa from which slaves were mostly extracted. There is bronze cladding, which “takes on the cast metal architecture of the American south”.
One of the first trades adopted by freed slaves was, he tells me, metalwork. Adjaye likes to tell stories about his projects, and this one is no exception. If you want to read more about David, the 2013 The New Yorker Magazine article is a great read. If you are in D.C., the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a must visit. Click here for more information: https://nmaahc.si.edu/
Congratulations David Adjaye you are truly an icon.