David Adjaye

David Adjaye

David Adjaye at CAA Conference, Dhaka, 2013
Born September 1966 (age 50)
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Nationality Ghanaian British
Occupation Architect
Awards RIBA Bronze Medal for Part 1 Students

Skolkovo Moscow School of Management
Rivington Place

National Museum of African American History and Culture

David Adjaye OBE (born September 1966) is a Ghanaian British architect.[1] Adjaye is the lead designer of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, located on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Early life

David Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The son of a Ghanaian diplomat, David Adjaye lived in Tanzania, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon[2] before moving to Britain at the age of nine.[1] He earned a BA at London South Bank University, before graduating with an MA in 1993 from the Royal College of Art.


Early projects

In 1993, the same year of graduation, Adjaye won the RIBA President's Medals Students Award, a prize offered for RIBA Part 1 projects, normally won by students who have only completed a bachelor's degree. Previously a unit tutor at the Architectural Association, he was also a lecturer at the Royal College of Art. After very short terms of work with the architectural studios of David Chipperfield (London) and Eduardo Souto de Moura (Porto), Adjaye established a practice with William Russell in 1994 called Adjaye & Russell, based in North London. This office was disbanded in 2000 and Adjaye established his own eponymous studio at this point.

The studio's first solo exhibition, David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings, was shown at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in January 2006, with Thames and Hudson publishing the catalogue of the same name. This followed their 2005 publication of Adjaye's first book, David Adjaye Houses.[3]

Firm operations

In February 2009, the cancellation or postponement of four projects in Europe and Asia forced the firm to enter into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), a deal to stave off insolvency proceedings which prevents financial collapse by rescheduling debts – estimated at about £1m – to creditors.[4]

National Museum of African American History

On 15 April 2009, he was selected as a team of architects, which includes the Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond and SmithGroup, to design the $500 million new National Museum of African American History and Culture, a Smithsonian Institution museum, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.[5][6] His design features a crown motif from Yoruba sculpture.[6][7]

Other commissions

Alongside his international commissions, Adjaye's work spans exhibitions, private homes and artist collaborations. He built homes for the designer Alexander McQueen, artist Jake Chapman, photographer Juergen Teller, actor Ewan McGregor, and artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster. For artist Chris Ofili, he designed a new studio and a beach house in Port of Spain.[8] He worked with Ofili to create an environment for The Upper Room, which was later acquired by Tate Britain and caused a nationwide media debate. He also collaborated with artist Olafur Eliasson to create a light installation, Your black horizon, at the 2005 Venice Biennale. He has also worked on the art project Sankalpa with director Shekhar Kapur.[4] Adjaye coauthored two seasons of BBC's Dreamspaces television series and hosts a BBC radio programme. In June 2005, he presented the documentary Building Africa: Architecture of a Continent.[9] In 2008, he participated in Manifesta 7[10] and the Gwangju Biennale.

Recent work

Recent works include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver,[1] the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo[11] and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, completed in 2010.[12]

Adjaye currently holds a Visiting Professor post at Princeton University School of Architecture. He was the first Louis Kahn visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and was the Kenzo Tange Professor in Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design. In addition, he is a RIBA Chartered Member, an AIA Honorary Fellow, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council.[13] He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Barcelona Institute of Architecture and also serves as member of the Advisory Boards of the Barcelona Institute of Architecture and the LSE Cities Programme.[14]

He was part of the team that designed the Petronia city project in the heart of Nana Kwame Bediako's Wonda World Estates 2000-acre mixed-use city development project, catering to the fast-growing oil and gas and mining sectors in the Western Region of Ghana.[15]

Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye was on display at the Art Institute of Chicago from September 2015 to January 2016.[16]

Personal life

In 2014, Adjaye married business consultant Ashley Shaw-Scott.[17] Chris Ofili was his best man.[18]

Adjaye was featured in an advertising campaign for British luxury brand Dunhill in 2012.[19] Adjaye has also worked on numerous collaborative projects with his brother Peter Adjaye, a musician.[20][21]


In 2006, Adjaye was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize for the Whitechapel Idea Store, built on the remains of a 1960s mall. He received the title of OBE from the Queen in 2007 for services to British architecture. In 2016 he received the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's McDermott award, a $100,000 prize for excellence in the arts.[22]


  1. 1 2 3 Jeff Chu (2009). "Feature: David Adjaye". Fast Company. Archived from the original on 8 December 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
  2. William Shaw (2 April 2006), "Man With a Plan", New York Times.
  3. David Adjaye, Harvard Design School.
  4. 1 2 Cahal Milmo, "David Adjaye: Downfall of the showman", The Independent, 24 July 2009..
  5. Jordana, Sebastian. "David Adjaye wins competition for the National Museum of African American History and Culture", 17 April 2009. ArchDaily. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  6. 1 2 Trescott, Jacqueline (15 April 2009). "Designer Chosen for Black History Museum". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  7. Kate Taylor, "The Thorny Path to a National Black Museum", New York Times, 22 January 2011.
  8. Diane Solway, "Where In The World Is David Adjaye?" W Magazine, March 2011.
  9. David Adjaye
  10. David Adjaye manifesta7.
  11. Alexander Topping, Architect to Hollywood stars attempts to save firm from financial collapse, The Guardian, 24 July 2009.
  12. SKOLKOVO Campus, Moscow. Archived 23 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. Design Futures Council Senior Fellows.
  14. David Adjaye, LSE Cities.
  15. The Team – Petronia City
  16. artic.edu Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye
  17. "Ghanaian-British Architect David Adjaye weds Ashley Shaw-Scott", BellaNaija, 18 January 2014.
  18. Rykesha Hudson, "Renowned British-Ghanaian Architect Weds Model", The Voice, 21 January 2014.
  19. "David Adjaye by Alfred Dunhill". YouTube.
  20. "Musicity", The Architecture Foundation, 19 April 2011.
  21. "MEETING ARCHITECTURE Part 5: David Adjaye and Peter Adjaye – MAXXI", Nero.
  22. MIT Office for the Arts. "McDermott Award Past Recipients". Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  23. Designer of the Year Award, Design Miami. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  24. "David Adjaye tops PowerList 2013", The Guardian, 25 October 2012.
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