David Adjaye: A Global Architect

David Adjaye: Global Architecture’s Rising Star

Ghanaian British architect David Adjaye has risen to the heights of global architecture. At only 50 , David has achieved professional milestones which are unusual for a field such as architecture where it takes a really longtime to build a professional legacy. David, on the other hand, has had a career that has seen him win prestigious awards, run projects around the world, and design some of the most coveted design projects such as his recent work with the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. David was born in Tanzania fro Ghanaian parents while as his father was working there as diplomat The family lived in a variety of places around the world as his family traveled from place to place following David’s father’s diplomatic career.

Thus, before David ended up in London ,where he would begin career, he lived in Egypt, Kenya, Kenya, Lebanon, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. In some ways these early cosmopolitan experiences could have shaped his unique and inventive design perspective. In 1993 he earned an MA from the Royal College of Art, before which he had obtained a BA from London South Bank University. In 1994, after a few brief stints at two architectural studios, David set up a practice, Adjaye & Russell, with a classmate instead of pursuing a job at a high profile architectural firm. David would later set up his own practice Adjaye Associates in 2000 after Adjaye & Russell wound up David’s firm now runs projects around the world from its offices in Accra, Berlin, London, and New York. Early in his work with his practice, David would design a house for Chris Ofili, who as then growing in popularity as as a celebrity.

Moscow School of Management. Adjaye Associates

The house which was designed with David’s signature inventiveness and boldness caused a stir and threw David into the spotlight. David has completed signature projects around the world which include The Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo Norway  The Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, a n d  t h e S k o l k o v o M o s c o w S c h o o l o f Management. David was also the lead architect for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. The widely anticipated $500 million museum was opened in September 2016. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is arguably David’s most important project work to date given its historical significance. The building, which has been designed with Yoruba inspired motifs, sits on the last available lot on Washington DC’s National Mall.

Nobel Peace Center. Adjaye Associates
National Museum of African American History and Culture. Leisure Opportunities UK

Outside the big international projects and commissions, David has numerous projects ranging from exhibitions, books, and private homes. David has designed homes for high profile people such as designer Alexander McQueen, high end stores such as tailor Ozwald  Boategn’s Saville Row store, and a home for actor Ewan McGregor. David is also rumoured to have been shortlisted to design President Barak Obama’s presidential center. Outside his design work David holds several teaching positions and professorships around the world. These include The Kenzo Tange Professor in Architecture at at Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Louis Khan visiting professorship at the University of Pennsylvania and a visiting professorship at Princeton University.

David has also won numerous awards for his work including the OBE title from the Queen of England in 2007 for services to British Architecture and recently the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s McDermott’s $100,000 prize of excellence in the arts.  David is married to Ashley Shaw-Scott a former model with Masters degrees from France’s INSEAD and the London School of Economics. Ashley is Adjaye Associates’s research director. The two live in London and are rumoured to be planning to purchase homes in New York and Accra Ghana. Meanwhile David and his team have been pitching their proposals to the Obama Foundation for the design of President Obama’s presidential centre. And true to form David and his associates are going beyond and against the grain, looking to design more than presidential monument but a centre of active community engagement and outreach. David also seems poised to start developing is pipeline of projects in the US. Adjaye has designed a residential tower in Manhattan and is currently working on a project for the Studio Museum in Harlem New York. His firm also completed the community oriented  Sugar Hill Housing project.

David is also building his portfolio of projects on the African continent. David has been working on museum focused on slavery in Ghana’s gold coast. He also working on Sub-Saharan Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Rwanda and a World Bank headquarters building in Dakar Senegal. David is also working on urban and city planning projects including the development of a master plan for Gabon’s capital.

Rwanda Pediatric Cancer Centre. Adjaye Associates
Alara Concept Store Lagos. Adjaye Associates

He has also done a concept store for a shop in Nigeria and the Ghanaian private home of former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan. That is quite a bit for a man who has achieved so much. But them again one cannot help but think that it looks like he is just getting started.