Meet Sir David Adjaye, the Ghanaian-British architect with iconic buildings across the globe

Stephen Nartey May 11, 2023
Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye is noted for being behind many iconic buildings across the world. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ghanaian-British architect, Sir David Frank Adjaye, is noted for being behind many iconic buildings across the world. However, his most notable work is the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., and the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo. His architecture resonates with the cultural sensitivity of the community his work is situated in.

Adjaye only pencils his designs when he is in tune with the history of his projects, especially when it resonates with his inner self. His work belief dovetails into the Robin Hood philosophy, where he crafts grittier designs for the rich, and sleek designs for the poor.

His designs, to a large extent, are a product of his early upbringing. Born in Tanzania on September 22, 1966, he experienced different cultures while traveling often with his diplomat father before finally settling in London. He had firsthand experiences of diverse cultures and architecture in that geographic scope. By the age of 13, he was of the view that the world was an intertwined space of a variety of ethnicities, religions, and cultural constructions.

He owes his international perspective of designing to his trips across Africa and the Middle East. Adjaye schooled at South Bank University, where he earned his degree in architecture, and continued to the Royal College of Art in London, where he acquired his master’s in 1993. He began his professional practice in 2000 when he established his firm, Adjaye Associates in London. Over the years, the firm has grown into a force to reckon with, with offices in New York, Ghana, and Berlin, according to stir world.

One of the towering works from his years of experiencing cultural diversity is the Adjaye African Architecture: A photographic survey of metropolitan architecture, which took 10 years to complete. He documented 54 major African cities and showcased a concise urban history, fact file, maps, and satellite imagery that showcases what constitutes African architecture and what it is out to be in its true essence.

He achieved this project by photographing and documenting every city, collating and publishing the images as a seven-volume set in 2011. Aside from his interest in architecture, he also makes designs for furniture, clothing, and trophies. One of his works in this space is the set of textiles he designed for Knoll in collaboration with creative director, Dorothy Cosonas.

The breathtaking designs were motivated by the desert landscape and the rock architecture of Petra. He also built the Washington furniture collection and the Moroso Double-Zero collection. One interesting fact about Adjaye is how he uses a blue Rexel Cumberland pencil, sharpened in a carpenter’s style with a knife.

The textures and form of his designs are the fruit of this pencil – this went into designing Manhattan’s first skyscraper built. It will go down in history when completed as a skyscraper designed by a person of African descent, and will be the tallest building in the western hemisphere, measuring 1,663 feet tall, characterized by a series of stepped cantilevers, according to design boom.

He was knighted by the Queen of England in the 2017 New Year’s Honors for his services in architecture. Adjaye has won several awards and accolades, including Powerlist: Britain’s Most Influential Black Person – 2012, the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT – 2016, Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT – 2016, RIBA Royal Gold Medal – 2021, among others.

His current projects include the Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: May 11, 2023


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