Making Place:
The Architecture of
David Adjaye

September 19, 2015–January 3, 2016

About David Adjaye

David Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1966, to Ghanaian parents who were diplomats. He was raised in Africa, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom.

Having graduated from the Royal College of Art with a master’s degree in architecture, he went on to establish his own studio, Adjaye Associates, a few years later in 2000. He has since won several prestigious commissions, including the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo (2005) and the Whitechapel Idea Store in London (2005). Adjaye Associates now has offices in London, New York, and Accra, and is working on projects throughout the world: from a shopping and cultural complex in Beirut (ongoing) to a silk-weaving workshop in Varanasi, India (ongoing).

In the United States, Adjaye’s projects include a new home for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver (2007) and Sugar Hill (2014), an affordable housing scheme in Harlem, New York. Adjaye’s largest U.S. project, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to open in 2016. He is also working on the expansion of the new Studio Museum in Harlem (ongoing).

Adjaye has taught architecture at universities in England and the United States. He also continues to explore and expand his own views of the built environment; in 2011, he completed an 11-year photographic study of modern architecture in Africa. Artistic collaborations are also a significant aspect of Adjaye’s work; he recently worked with curator Okwui Enwezor on the design of the Venice Art Biennale (2015).

David Adjaye. © Ed Reeve, courtesy of Adjaye Associates.

Exhibition Preview » Conversation: David Adjaye and Zoë Ryan » Panel Discussion: The Art of Architecture—David Adjaye's Collaborations with Artists »

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Washington, D.C.

Due to open in 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is of immense international importance and visibility. Both a memorial and museum, it celebrates the history of African Americans through permanent exhibitions in galleries located below the ground floor and temporary exhibitions in galleries above ground. A 200-foot-long porch leads to the Central Hall, the premier space in the building.

The facade for the NMAAHC is a bronze-colored metal latticework that wraps around the corona-shaped building. For inspiration, Adjaye looked to the professional guild traditions, particularly ironworking, of the American South, where many freed slaves worked in the years after the Civil War. Much of the early architecture of this region, particularly in Louisiana, is indebted to the work of highly skilled African American casters. By referencing this powerful tradition, the facade acknowledges the important transition freed slaves made in moving from the agrarian to the artisanal class.

View of the David Adjaye–designed Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Photo by Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing.

Moscow School of Management Skolkovo


In response to the severity of the Russian winter, Adjaye combined the main elements of this new school building into a single structure. The disc element contains teaching facilities, auditoriums, and a restaurant and protects the service area below. The roof of the disc provides access to a wellness center, administration offices, and the linear residential buildings. This arrangement minimizes the building’s footprint and creates a collection of buildings that are oriented to the surrounding landscape.

Adjaye Associates and AB Studios. Moscow School of Management, Skolkovo, Russia 2010. © Ed Reeve. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates.

Idea Store Whitechapel


The Idea Store was a concept pioneered by the London borough of Tower Hamlets for a new type of neighborhood library that would improve access to a wide range of information and educational facilities. To this end, the organization of the interior encourages public engagement. The ground floor was designed as a permeable space akin to the adjacent street market, whose colored, striped awnings inspired the pattern of colored glass on the facade.

Photo by Lydon Douglas, courtesy of Adjaye Associates.

Francis A. Gregory Library

Washington D.C.

The Francis A. Gregory Library stands on the edge of woodlands in southeast Washington, D.C. It is a jewel box of a building, identified by diamond-shaped windows that recall luxury retail stores rather than public libraries (usually realized with substantially smaller budgets). The diagonal checkerboard pattern of the facade acts as a visual filter between interior and exterior, and the louvered roof reduces the impact of direct sunlight on the internal spaces.

Adjaye Associates. Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library, Washington, D.C., 2012. © Jeff Sauers. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates.

Nobel Peace Center

Oslo, Norway

Within the walls of a bombed-out railway station, a sequence of scenographic interiors explores the history of the Peace Price and its relevance to the contemporary world. Externally, a freestanding canopy directs visitors to the entrance and, in the other direction, frames a view of the Oslo town hall, where the Peace Price is awarded.

Photo by Tim Soar, courtesy of Adjaye Associates.


Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye is organized by Haus der Kunst, Munich, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Major funding has been generously provided by Nancy Carrington Crown and A. Steven Crown and Barbara Bluhm-Kaul and Don Kaul.

The Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute of Chicago is the Lead Affiliate Sponsor.

The exhibition catalogue, David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material, has been underwritten by Nancy Carrington Crown and A. Steven Crown.

Additional support for the exhibition has been provided by the Fellows and Benefactors of the Architecture and Design Department, the Architecture & Design Society, the Leadership Advisory Committee, Cheryl and Eric McKissack, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and Linda Johnson Rice.

Annual support for Art Institute exhibitions is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Kenneth Griffin, Robert M. and Diane v. S. Levy, Thomas and Margot Pritzker, the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation, and the Woman’s Board.

Supporting Corporate Sponsor

Further support has been provided by


First Image

Adjaye Associates. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., current. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates.

Last Image

View of the David Adjaye–designed Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Photo by Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing.

Making Place:The Architecture of David Adjaye

September 19, 2015–January 3, 2016

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