African Architect Spotlight – Sir David Adjaye

Today we are spotlighting an esteemed African architect – Sir David Adjaye. Adjaye is a Ghanaian-British architect who has won major international awards for his impressive body of work and groundbreaking designs all over the world.

We had the privilege to attend a video conference today where he was the special guest and speaker.

February is Black History Month in America and it is pleasing when these events are hosted to spread the light on the impact and influence of Blacks all around the world.

African Architecture was the topic the days conference.

Who is David Adjaye?

Born in 1966 in Dar Es Salaam to a Ghanaian diplomat, young David spent he early years living around Africa and the Middle East due to his fathers profession. They eventually settled in England at the age of 9.

He got his BA in architecture from London South Bank University and he later got his MA degree from the Royal College of Art.

He told the story on our call that an art teacher noticed something in him early on, and encouraged him to concentrate on the arts. So young David spent a year studying various types of work, like painting, sculpture, and design.

Nobel Peace Center – Oslo Norway (courtesy Adjaye Associates)

Early Success and Works

Adjaye quickly became a rising star in Architecture and he was chosen to design the Idea Store in Whitechapel UK, and later on the Nobel Peace Center in Norway in 2005.

He soon took his work and practice to many parts of the world, and he has influenced modern African architecture.

“My approach is to design from the inside out and my building have been said to unfold cinematically. The starting point is to gain an understanding of a clients’ needs and the way in which a sequence of spaces will be used.”

– David Adjaye

Major Works

In 2007 Adjaye was commissioned to design the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver – his first museum commission. And later designed the Moscow School of Management – which in his words was to “disrupt the old order of a school”.

In 2009, Adjaye was named lead architect for the $540 Million National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. This magnificent structure was inspired by Yoruban art with its resemblance to a three-tiered crown.

The façade is also clad and wrapped in bronze coloured metal lattice, an homage to the ironwork craft from enslaved Africans. African architecture influencing modern American structures – we love it.

National Museum of African American History – Washington D.C. (courtesy Adjaye Associates)

Nigerian Projects

Alara Concept Store – This creative and innovative building is in Lagos Nigeria. Situated in a residential and commercial section of Victoria Island, this concept store was designed to be a creative hub in the community where art, retail, and lifestyle comingle harmoniously.

The store has a series of platforms, landings, and staircases that showcase art, textiles, and furniture. It has an industrial feel with the cast concrete and the back section has a cafe that opens up to a garden area, African architecture at its best.

Alara Concept Store (credit Another Africa)
Inside Store (Courtesy Adjaye Associates)

Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA)

“From an initial glance at the preliminary design concept, one might believe this is a traditional museum but, really, what we are proposing is an undoing of the objectification that has happened in the West through full reconstruction “

– David Adjaye

This visionary museum will be located in Benin City – a city of ancient importance that is known for rich culture and exquisite art. Many of the valuable artifacts native to this area have been pilfered and now sit in museums in the western world.

This museum will reclaim and house the sacred relics of Benin’s magical past and will be a dedicated place that all Africans will be proud to visit and see. It is to be built in the city centre next to the Oba’s palace – we cant wait to visit.

Rendering of EMOWAA (courtesy Adjaye Associates)

African Architecture on the Rise

Africa has amazing architects and African architecture deserves its due. We plan to highlight it and the architects as much as possible. The influences that are derived from the continent are inspiring, captivating, and beautiful. Hopefully more young Africans will venture into the built environment realm and showcase to the world the talents we behold.

Roman Kingsley

Journalist based in the United States and Nigeria, focusing on Real Estate Development and the stories emerging in and around the built environment.

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