Why David Adjaye’s Black History Museum won design of the year
Kicking off his career in boom-time Nineties London, David Adjaye’s buildings became a kind of cult: discreetly cool clubs, mysterious interiors and impossibly photogenic celebrity pads. But with the award-winning Smithsonian’s National Museum Of African American History he is now the architect of the building that defines the black experience like no other
Charming, with an easy manner, a ready smile and an ability to talk to anyone in a language they can understand. David Adjaye has always looked like he was destined for big things. And now, at the age of 48, he has arrived. Big time. With a former-model/business-consultant wife, apartments in London and New York and a string of movie- and fashion-industry and art-world friends, Adjaye is now also the architect of the building that will define the black experience like no other. The Smithsonian’s National Museum Of African American History & Culture is the final major museum on Washington DC’s Mall, the long-missing piece in a puzzle which has somehow managed to omit the black experience. Clad in bronze (poetically destined to get darker as it patinates), the delicately filigree-pierced metal is inspired by a Yoruba artefact. It looks like a crown to anoint the white-stone Mall with a social conscience and to confirm Adjaye as global architecture’s new star. He has also recently released the blocky, solid designs for Harlem’s Studio Museum, which is dedicated to African American art.