David Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to a father who was a Ghanaian diplomat. Consequently, he lived in Tanzania, Egypt, Yemen, and Lebanon all before moving to Britain at the age of nine. This background of constant change has shaped the world famous architect in ways that are clear.
The Ghanaian-British architect attended and graduated from both London South Bank University and the Royal College of Art. While an undergraduate, he received a prestigious award for architecture. This early success led Adjaye to start his own architectural firm. As a result of his work, he has received honors such as being named Britain’s most influential black person and being recently Knighted by the queen of England.
Adjaye has never looked at architecture as simply a job. Rather, for him it is both an instrument and instance of social change. He defines architecture as “a device that can actually really help to create new kinds of glues, new cohesion between people.” Each of his projects has aimed to create this glue. From homes, to libraries, to museum, Adjaye views each of these objects as parts of community that allow for the sharing culture, creation of understanding, and making of a more connected world.
Adjaye draws his inspiration from the knowledge that were created by his own experience. Although his constant moving created a sense of instability in his life, his lack of a fixed home also gave him knowledge of different cultures, ethnicities, and religions. He now uses this knowledge to bring a sensitivity to his projects, a sensitivity that seeks to highlight at the same time the uniqueness and commonality among people.
This can be seen in Adjaye’s most notable and significant work so far. On April 15, 2009 Adjaye was chosen as the lead architect for the creation of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. The Museum’s design was modeled after an ancient Yoruba sculpture. Like its creation, the museum tells the story of a history of a people, both the ordinary and the extraordinary. Through the museum, like all of his designs, Adjaye hopes to bring the world more together by making sure everyone has the chance to learn new cultures as he has in his life.
Hazim Hardeman is a graduate student at Oxford University, where he will pursue a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Economic and Social History. He is also African Community Learning Program's intern for the #500EmpoweringAfricanStories Project.
Aminata Sy is the founder and president of African Community Learning Program, a multimedia journalist, and a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies international relations and English. She is also the founder, editor, and publisher of the #500EmpoweringAfricanStories Project.
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