British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye has been awarded the 2021 Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba). The award is among the most prestigious in architecture, and Adjaye is the first black recipient in its 173-year history.
“It’s incredibly humbling and a great honour to have my peers recognise the work I have developed with my team and its contribution to the field over the past 25 years,” Adjaye said.
“Architecture for me has always been about the creation of beauty to edify all peoples around the world equally and to contribute to the evolution of the craft.”
The 54-year-old is the architect behind Abu Dhabi's The Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith centre that combines a mosque, church and synagogue. The project was announced in September last year, and will be built on Saadiyat Island.
Born in Tanzania, Adjaye moved to Britain with his diplomat father at a young age. He trained at Southbank University and the Royal College of Art, and established his own architecture company, Adjaye Associates, in 2000.
Among his major projects is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, completed in 2016. His award-winning design comprises stacked structures that mirror the metalwork created by slaves in the American South. The shape also emulates the three-tiered crowns found in Yoruban art from West Africa.
He earned recognition with residential projects in London, specifically the Dirty House, an art studio and apartment building in Shoreditch, which he completed in 2002.
Adjaye is no stranger to accolades. He won the Riba Bronze Medal Award in 1993 when he was still a student, and the 2016 McDermott award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2017, he was knighted in for his contributions to architecture.
Last month, Sharjah’s The Africa Institute, which focuses on the study of Africa and the African diaspora in the Arab world, announced that it commissioned Adjaye Associates to design its new campus. The design has been in the works since 2017, and the architect recently shared a preview of the project on his Instagram.