David Adjaye is only 43 and this rising starchitect has not slowed down since he opened his London based practice 8 years ago. Born in Tanzania, Adjaye's father was a Ghanaian diplomat and he and his family lived in Jeddah, Cairo, and Beirut during his childhood. Adjaye's design style draws from experiences, especially in residential projects placing significance on privacy and the home as a retreat. While his public works are more accessible and open. Adjaye has not let his success go to his head, still managing large commissions along with socially conscious low-budget work.
In April, Adjaye won the $500 million commission to design National Museum of African American History & Culture in D.C., a collaborative effort between Adjaye, the Freelon Group, and Davis Brody Bond. The museum, located near the Washington Monument will most likely be the last addition to the National Mall. The competition for the museum was steep to say the least. Among the finalists were Moshe Safdie & Associates, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Foster + Company. Check out the finalists work here. At the presentation to the selection committee, Adjaye set himself apart from the pack by addressing the past as well as hope for the future for Black Americans. "I spoke about celebration. How do we make a building that says 'Look at where we are!' not just 'Look at where we came from' or 'Look at what we went through'?" according to Fast Company's featured story which profiled the designer in their October 09 issue. Elements of the struggle of Black Americans are expressed in the architecture and materiality of the spaces. In addition to the museum, Adjaye also submitted a proposal to rebuild two inner-city branches of the D.C. Public Library. Adjaye believes that high design should not be just for the large budget projects but everyone. He went on to say, "The world is changing in a certain way...I'm seeing a design industry -- not just architecture -- that has more diversity, more new voices and different references coming into the canon." Let's be honest, recognized designers and architects are predominantly white and this can be quite discouraging to young people of color. I hope that Adjaye's work can not only change the way people view architecture but inspire the architects and designers of the future.