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Knoll Designer Bios

Sir David Adjaye

b. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Sir David Adjaye OBE is recognized as a leading architect of his generation. Adjaye was born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents and his influences range from contemporary art, music and science to African art forms and the civic life of cities. In 1994 he set up his first office, where his ingenious use of materials and his sculptural ability established him as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision.

He reformed his studio as Adjaye Associates in 2000 and immediately won several prestigious commissions. In Oslo he designed the Nobel Peace Centre in the shell of a disused railway station (completed in 2005). In London his design for the Whitechapel Idea Store pioneered a new approach to the provision of information services (2005). Later projects in London included the Stephen Lawrence Centre, with teaching and community spaces (2007), Rivington Place, an exhibition venue and resource centre (2007), and the Bernie Grant Centre for the performing arts (2007).

Adjaye Associates now have offices in London, Berlin, New York and Accra, and are working on projects in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. In the United States Adjaye was the designer of a new home for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver (2007), two public libraries in Washington DC (2012), as well as of several innovative residential projects. In 2009 a team led by Adjaye was selected to design the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Adjaye frequently collaborates with contemporary artists on art and installation projects. Examples include The upper room, with thirteen paintings by Chris Ofili (2002), Within reach, a second installation with Ofili in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2003), and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art for the 21st Century Pavilion that was designed to show a projection work by Olafur Eliasson, Your black horizon, at the 2005 Venice Biennale. The upper room is now in the permanent collection of Tate Britain.

Adjaye has taught at the Royal College of Art, where he had previously studied, and at the Architectural Association School in London, and has held distinguished professorships at the universities of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Princeton. He co-presented two six-part series of Dreamspaces, on modern architecture (BBC television, 2002 and 2003), and interviewed the eminent architects Oscar Niemeyer and Charles Correa (BBC radio, 2004 and 2005). In June 2005 he presented the BBC documentary film Building Africa: The architecture of a continent.

The material from Adjaye’s ten-year study of the capital cities of Africa was shown in Urban Africa, an exhibition at the Design Museum, London (2010) and published as African Metropolitan Architecture (New York, 2011, and as Adjaye Africa Architecture, London, 2011). He was the artistic director of GEO-graphics: A map of art practices in Africa, past and present, a major exhibition at the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (2010). The last exhibition of his architectural work, David Adjaye: Output, was held at Gallery MA, Tokyo (2010).