the royal institute of british architects (RIBA) has presented sir david adjaye with the 2021 royal gold medal, one of the world’s highest honors for architecture. the medal is approved personally by her majesty the queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence ‘either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture’. adjaye’s practice, adjaye associates, was founded in 2000 and today has studios in accra, london, and new york, with projects across the world.
sir david adjaye OBE — recipient of the 2021 royal gold medal for architecture | image © francis kokoroko
‘it’s incredibly humbling and a great honor to have my peers recognize the work I have developed with my team and its contribution to the field over the past 25 years,’ says david adjaye. ‘architecture, for me, has always been about the creation of beauty to edify all peoples around the world equally and to contribute to the evolution of the craft. the social impact of this discipline has been and will continue to be the guiding force in the experimentation that informs my practice. a heartfelt and sincere moment of gratitude and thanks to all the people who supported the journey to get to this moment.’
adjaye has achieved international attention for a body of work that spans more than 25 years. drawing on his cited influences including ‘contemporary art, music and science to african art forms and the civic life of cities’, his completed projects range from private houses, exhibitions and furniture design, through to major cultural buildings and city masterplans. from the start of his career he has combined practice with teaching in schools of architecture in the UK and the USA, including professorships at the universities of harvard, michigan, pennsylvania and princeton.
‘at every scale, from private homes to major arts centers, one senses david adjaye’s careful consideration of the creative and enriching power of architecture,’ says RIBA president alan jones. ‘his work is local and specific and at the same time global and inclusive. blending history, art and science he creates highly crafted and engaging environments that balance contrasting themes and inspire us all. I believe his both practicing and teaching in schools of architecture has significantly enriched his work. his artistic and social vision has created public projects that perfectly demonstrate the civic potential of architecture — fostering empathy, identity and pride.’
specere kielder, scotland
image by james T M towill
adjaye associates is known for the smithsonian national museum of african american history and culture, in washington, DC (2016), while other completed buildings include: ‘ruby city’, an art center in san antonio, texas (2019); and the ‘sugar hill’ mixed use development in harlem, new york (2015). ongoing projects include a new home for the studio museum in harlem; 130 william, a high-rise residential tower in new york’s financial district; the princeton university art museum in new jersey; the george street sydney plaza in sydney, australia; and the abrahamic family house, an interfaith complex in abu dhabi.
rivington art place, london
image by lyndon douglas
as part of the 2021 royal gold medal celebrations, RIBA has commissioned the artist, scholar, and choreographer adesola akinleye to create a series of new video artworks inspired by adjaye’s work. the 2021 royal gold medal selection committee, chaired by RIBA president alan jones, comprised: lesley lokko, dorte mandrup, shelley mcnamara, and structural engineer professor hanif kara. the citation from the committee can be read in full below.
ideas store whitechapel, london
image courtesy of adjaye associates
citation on sir david adjaye by the 2021 RIBA honours committee: through his work as an architect sir david adjaye speaks confidently across cultures, disciplines, politics and continents. his body of work is global and local, finely attuned as it reflects and responds to context and community, climate and culture.
the lessons adjaye learned through his initial series of conceptual and sensuous dwellings set boldly against and within the shifting landscape of central london have been disassembled and reconfigured as he has realised wider, civic public and social spaces of cities across the world. listening to clients and users and often working with artists, adjaye’s work is contradictory and yet coherent, contrasting and courageous, setting up and balancing elegance and grit, weightlessness and weight, dark and light.
francis gregory library, washington DC
image by edmund sumner
adjaye has combined practice and teaching in schools of architecture around the world and championed civic representation through public discourse. he is dedicated to communicating and creating architecture that is both personal and inspired by culture and the stories of people’s lives, realising places that offer new layers of empathy, experience and engagement.
his work reveals a core belief in the generative power of architecture. in a world that has become polarised he brings politics, art and science together with architecture, as he works to create a better future. the smithsonian national museum of african american history and culture in washington DC united his many architectural and cultural agendas and expressed the role architecture can play in pluralism.
adjaye is a singular and timely talent and a strong reminder of the insightful and integrative role of the architect.
philip stevens I designboom
may 26, 2021