Born in Tanzania, founder of his first office in 1994, visiting professor at the Royal College of Art, and a knight as of 2016 for his service to architecture, it is safe to say that David Adjaye has done well for himself. Regardless, he carries on with his poised and humble manner, letting his spaces, his designs, and his impact do the talking. Known for his weighty and mysterious-looking architecture, Adjaye also has an extensive portfolio with Knoll including the Washington Collection and a series of fabrics for KnollTextiles.
Amid the commotion of Adjaye's growing fame, The Wall Street Journal took the time to catch up with the architect and ask about some of his most prized sources of inspiration. Surprisingly, when asked about his favorite living room, Adjaye responded Villa Mairea by the Finnish modernist Alvar Aalto. Adjaye recounted his visit to the house about 25 years ago, pointing out that what he most admired was Aalto's mastery of spatial storytelling.
The Wall Street Journal picked at Adjaye's brain, asking him to break down the different components of the room that he believes sets the living room at Villa Mairea apart from the rest. Not surprisingly, Adjaye jumped straight to the furniture, commenting that, "Aalto was designing and choosing furniture that would be cool for the coming world." Simple profiles lend serenity and do not distract from one's ability to perceive the space. Adjaye also pointed out the abstract Moroccan carpets, the multiple levels of transparency down to the kinds of glass vases used, the lighting, and the quirky, yet unique travel souvenirs that he saw as intentional.
Aalto's unified design, achieved by way of designing every single element of a space, from the room to the door handles, made a lasting impact on David Adjaye and his practice. Adjaye increasingly designs furniture for his own spaces. Some of those pieces such as the Washington Corona Coffee Table have made it to production and have become highly popular today.