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Biography of David ADJAYE

Ghana > Professionals : David ADJAYE

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Born on 22/09/1966 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

David Adjaye, (born September 22, 1966, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), British-based architect of Ghanaian descent who won international acclaim for his diverse designs and innovative use of materials and light.He is one of the world's most recognisable and influential architects. 

Adjaye was born to Ghanaian parents in Tanzania, where his father, a diplomat, was stationed at the time. Because of his father’s career, Adjaye lived in several countries in Africa and the Middle East during his youth; the family eventually settled in London. An interest in art led him to earn a B.Arch. from London South Bank University (1990) and an M.Arch. from the Royal College of Art (1993).He trained with David Chipperfield(British architect) and Eduardo Souto De Moura (Poruguese architect) . In 1994 he started his own practice at the age of just 28.

Since then, David Adjaye has made his mark all over the world. In his hometown of London, he has designed a series of dramatically beautiful private homes ( Alexander McQueen, artist Jake Chapman, photographer Juergen Teller, actor Ewan McGrego), and worked with Tower Hamlets Council on Idea Stores in Poplar and Whitechapel. He designed the Stephen Lawrence Centre in Deptford, which aims to encourage disadvantaged young people to pursue careers in architecture and urban design.

Further afield, high-profile projects include the Moscow School of Management, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American Culture and History, the new Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo. While critics swoon over his ingenious use of materials and apparent ability to 'sculpt' light, he claims not to have a signature style. "What's the point of building if you're just doing the same thing over and over again?" he says. "That would kill me."

He has also worked closely with artists, including Chris Ofili and Olafur Eliasson. In 2010, the Design Museum put on an exhibition of his own photographs showing the architecture of Africa's capital cities. "I wanted to show the everyday experience of going to school, to court, to parliament, especially to young African kids who might not have been back to the continent," he says. "Of course, Africa is about great architecture too and that's something we should be proud of."

He started Adjaye Associates in 2000.

Adjaye’s early design projects included retail establishments, restaurants. studios, and private residences. His work expanded to include large-scale public buildings, such as the Idea Stores (2004, 2005)—library–community-centre hybrids that he designed in two London neighbourhoods—the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo (2005), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver (2007), and the Moscow School of Management (2010). That Adjaye was selected to work on such prominent projects at a relatively young age was unusual in the architectural world. He won his most prestigious commission to date in 2009, when he was chosen from a field of respected architects to design the new home of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (construction began in 2012), in Washington, D.C. Later in 2009, affected by global economic recession, he was forced to restructure his firm and its debt, but he emerged stronger than before.

Adjaye’s travels as a child allowed him to develop a heightened degree of cultural sensitivity and exposed him to a variety of architectural styles, which he has cited as being influences on his approach to design. That his youngest brother needed the use of a wheelchair was also an influence, as it caused Adjaye to contemplate what he called the “social responsibility” of architecture. Although his designs may share some common elements, they tend to differ widely in scope and appearance, because they are inspired by the specific parameters of the physical space to be occupied and the intended function of the building. Elektra House and Dirty House (2000 and 2002, respectively, both in London)—two of the most well-known examples of the private residences he designed—had dark exteriors, were stark and modernistic, and provided the perfect milieu for the artists who lived in them. His Idea Stores were light, airy spaces that were infused with a sense of vibrancy and were designed to draw the community in.

Adjaye’s winning design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture was inspired by Yoruban art and architecture and showcased the trajectory of the African American experience against the backdrop of other Washington, D.C., monuments and museums.

In the midst of designing, Adjaye found time over the course of more than a decade (1999–2010) to travel to the capital of every African country, photographing each city. His images were published as a seven-volume set, Adjaye Africa Architecture: A Photographic Survey of Metropolitan Architecture (2011; also published as African Metropolitan Architecture). He also authored or coauthored several other publications, including David Adjaye: Houses: Recycling, Reconfiguring, Rebuilding (2005), David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings: Specificity, Customization, Imbrication (2006), David Adjaye: A House for an Art Collector (2011), and David Adjaye: Authoring: Re-placing Art and Architecture (2012).


David's glittering portfolio and high public profile have put him in demand as a teacher and presenter, and he is currently visiting professor at Princeton School of Architecture. He is the co-presenter of the BBC's Dreamspaces, and has interviewed seminal Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer for BBC radio. He has also presented a BBC documentary, Building Africa: The Architecture of a Continent.He received the title of OBE T(he Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), from the Queen in 2007 for services to British architecture.



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Last update : 04/18/2016

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