Renowned Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye OBE has been named the 2021 recipient of one of the highest awards in the field of architecture, the Royal Gold Medal. This marks the first time in the 172-year-history of the Royal Gold Medal award’s existence that it has been presented to a black architect, reports Architectural Digest.
While the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) was forced to postpone its illustrious Stirling Prize award until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has named Adjaye as the 2021 Royal Gold Medal recipient. The achievement award, which is sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth, recognizes an architect, or group of architects, that have made considerable contributions and advancements to international architecture and the field overall, cites Arch Paper.
At age 54, Adjaye, who was born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents has done just that. His firm, Adjaye Associates, was founded in 2000 and has gone on to create projects around the world, from New York to London to Moscow to Ghana and beyond. Adjaye Associates currently has studios in New York, London, and Accra, Ghana.
Adjaye released a statement upon learning of his selection, stating the following:
It’s incredibly humbling and a great honour to have my peers recognise the work I have developed with my team and its contribution to the field over the past 25 years.” “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.”
Some of his most influential works include the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo in Russia, Ruby City in San Antonio, and the Bernie Grant Art Centre in London.
Adjaye’s most notable commission to date is, inarguably, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, located in Washington D.C. The 31,000-square foot museum, with its Yoruba crown-inspired facade, was completed in 2016 through a partnership between Freelon Group and Davis Brody Bond, under the collaborative name Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup, and Adjaye Associates served as the lead designers on the project. In a 2013 interview with The New Yorker, Adjaye called the museum the “defining project of my career.”
“At every scale, from private homes to major arts centres, one senses David Adjaye’s careful consideration of the creative and enriching power of architecture,” said 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.”
Adjaye Associates currently has more than ten projects in development, including a new home for Harlem’s Studio Museum, the Princeton University Art Museum, the Royal Benin Museum, the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, and the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra.
According to Pulse, Adjaye and his firm have been awarded contracts by the Ghanaian government for no less than a dozen projects (causing an upset for some local architects). Some of those commissions will include the New Parliamentary Chamber, the GNPC Accra Head Office, the International Cancer Centre for Children, and the redevelopment and expansion of the Ghana Embassy in Washington D.C.
Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017 and was named one of Time magazine’s most influential people during that same year. In 2017, he was named Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and Adjaye has received other honors from the RIBA, three of their International Awards and the 1993 RIBA Bronze Medal.