In 2009, Tanzania-born architect David Adjaye was commissioned to design the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., set to open in 2015. Now, he has won the Wall Street Journal Magazine’s 2013 Innovator Award.
With a global design firm that has offices in New York, London, Berlin and Ghana, 47-year old Adjaye has worked on several high-profile design projects including private homes for celebrities; an affordable apartment complex in Harlem; and a furniture line with noted design house Knoll.
He reportedly beat out 69 other architects when he won the $500 million Smithsonian contract.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Adjaye says his upbringing, travels and African identity greatly influenced many of his design ideas for the new museum: “My father articulated a set of ideals to me, always very softly. Just certain points about being strong about your identity, about who you are and not being intimidated by other cultures. And to understand that there’s a world that exists beyond national boundaries.”
The article goes on to describe the museum’s structure: As seen in digital renderings, the structure appears as stacked inverted pyramids, a silhouette inspired, says Adjaye, by Yoruban sculpture. The patterning of the decorative bronze grilles on the museum’s façade, reminiscent of African metalwork, will allow light to filter into the building in a beguiling pattern, just as with the thatched lattices of some traditional African dwellings. The museum’s very form, squatting massively on the last real buildable plot near to the Washington Monument, seems to suggest the earthy monumentality of such ancient African sites as Timbuktu and Great Zimbabwe. As he puts it, Adjaye’s objective is to establish a kind of “classical” African sensibility, an architecture capable of forging a link between African American cultural traditions and their common roots in Africa itself.
Read more at WSJ.com