David Adjaye - Born in Africa, Designing Architecture for the World

David Adjaye - Born in Africa, Designing Architecture for the World

With an exterior siding of bronzed aluminum panels and an entry hall with more wood than the hold of a slave ship, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC may become David Adjaye's most recognizable work. The Tanzania-born British architect creates transformative designs, from this national museum for the US to an old rail station that is now the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway.


Born: September 22, 1966, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa

Education and Professional Training:

  • 1988-1990: Chassay + Last, London, United Kingdome
  • 1990: Bachelor of Architecture with honors, London South Bank University
  • 1990-1991: David Chipperfield (UK) and Eduardo Souto de Moura (Portugal)
  • 1993: Masters in Architecture, Royal College of Art
  • 1994-2000: Partnership with William Russell as Adjaye & Russell
  • 1999-2010: Visited every country in Africa to document African architecture
  • 2000 - present: Adjaye Associates, Principal (Facebook)

Significant Works:

  • 2002: Dirty House, London, UK
  • 2005: Idea Store, Whitechapel, London, UK
  • 2005: Nobel Peace Center, Oslo, Norway
  • 2007: Rivington Place, London, UK
  • 2007: Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London, UK
  • 2007: Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO
  • 2008: Stephen Lawrence Centre, London, UK
  • 2010: Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, Moscow, Russia
  • 2012: Francis Gregory Library, Washington, D.C.
  • 2014: Sugar Hill (affordable housing), 898 St. Nicholas Avenue, Harlem, NYC
  • 2015: Aïshti Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon
  • 2016: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Washington, D.C.

Furniture and Product Designs:

David Adjaye has a collection of side chairs, coffee tables, and textile patterns offered by Knoll Home Designs. He also has a line of circular chairs on stainless steel tubular frames called Double Zero for Moroso.

About David Adjaye:

Because David's father was a government diplomat, the Adjaye family moved from Africa to the Middle East and finally settled in England when David was a young teenager. As a graduate student in London, the young Adjaye traveled from traditional Western architectural havens, like Italy and Greece, to spending time in Japan learning about modern Eastern architecture. His world experience, including returning to Africa as an adult, informs his designs-not known for a particular style, but for a thoughtful representation embedded into individual projects.

Another experience that has affected the work of David Adjaye is the disabling illness of his brother, Emmanuel. At a young age, the future architect was exposed to the dysfunctional designs of public institutions used by his family as they cared for a newly paralyzed child. He has said many times that functional design is even more important than beauty.

In December 2015, Adjaye Associates was asked to submit a proposal for the Obama Presidential Center, to be built in Chicago.

Related People of Influence:

  • Eduardo Souto de Moura
  • Chris Ofili
  • Richard Rogers

Significant Awards:

  • 1993: Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Bronze Medal
  • 2007: Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to architecture
  • 2014: W.E.B. Du Bois Medal

Quotations - In the Words of David Adjaye:

"Things often come at the time they're meant to come, even if they seem late."-2013, The New Yorker
"Sustainability is not just material use or energy use… it is lifestyle.”- Approach

Related Books:

  • David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material, Art Institute of Chicago, 2015
  • David Adjaye: Authoring: Re-placing Art and Architecture, Lars Muller, 2012
  • David Adjaye: A House for an Art Collector, Rizzoli, 2011
  • African Metropolitan Architecture, Rizzoli, 2011
  • Adjaye, Africa, Architecture, Thames & Hudson, 2011
  • David Adjaye Houses: Recycling, Reconfiguring, Rebuilding, Thames and Hudson, 2006
  • David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings, Thames and Hudson, 2006

Sources: David Adjaye website; "A Sense of Place" by Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, September 23, 2013; David Adjaye, Dezeen Book of Interviews, Dezeen, September 29, 2014; Approach at; David Adjaye, Architect by Amy McKenna, Encyclopaedia Britannica Online accessed January 9, 2016