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Made in Africa: Delivering the architectural goods

Published at: 10 April 2015

Image: David Adjaye

The online architecture publication, ArchDaily recently named Tanzanian born and global citizen David Adjaye as one of its “seven architects designing a diverse future in Africa”.
Revered as a leading architect of his generation, and recipient of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), David Adjaye (48), spent 12 years of his life travelling every city in Africa so he could reacquaint himself with where it all began for him, having spent most of his formative years outside of the continent that gave birth to him 1966.

In 2010, his practice, Adjaye Associates completed its largest project to date –a £160 million Moscow School of Management Skolkovo building which in its design incorporates Russian Suprematism with Adjaye’s very his own African inspired  heritage with great aplomb.

Just last week, City Press reported that Adjaye’s new public pavilion is set to begin construction at Africa’s oldest railway station, Johannesburg Park Station later this month.

His selection for the job has been met with both compliment and disapproval from some of South Africa’s leaders in the field. Adjaye has consistently proven that he is no architecture midget. His series of accolades date back to his early beginnings in 1994, when he set up his first office, thus signing himself up as an “architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision”  which is borne out of his love for materials and sculptural abilities.

His work is also widely influenced by contemporary art, music and science to African art forms and the civic life of cities, he has resided in or has visited through years of traveling.

City Press reports that the public pavilion will be constructed with hundreds of timber slats inscribed with words of welcome in all of Africa’s spoken languages. So what is so special about Adjaye? Apart from being the son of a Ghanaian diplomat, Adjaye is a well travelled son of the soil, though he holds a British citizenship. He was born, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and has lived in places such Tanzania, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon, before moving to Britain at the age of nine. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) from London South Bank University, and also  graduated with an MA from Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1993. Adjaye has made a name for himself as one of a few designers of “public-private spaces that engage the urban environment, but still maintain moments of privacy”. His portfolio of work spans exhibitions, private homes and artist collaborations, and has a series of books to his name.

There can be no end to his list of accolades, safe to say he has made great strides in putting Africa on the architectural map through his work.
His other notable works include among others, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo.

Love him or loathe him, Adjaye continues to innovate and expand his practice, Adjaye Associates that has offices in New York, London and more recently in Accra.

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