David Adjaye. Photo: Chris Schwagga.

David Adjaye Awarded RIBA Gold Medal

Tanzanian-born British Ghanian architect David Adjaye has been awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects gold medal, becoming the first Black architect to receive the prize in its 173-year history. The honor, personally approved by the Queen of England, is considered to be one of architecture’s highest in the world.

Adjaye, who was knighted in 2017 for his contributions to architecture and earlier this year won the Isamu Noguchi Prize, formed Adjaye Associates in 2000, and quickly made a name for himself designing bar interiors and private homes for the rich and famous before going on to design larger projects including the Idea Store Libraries in the Tower Hamlets section of London; the Sugar Hill affordable-housing development in New York’s Harlem neighborhood; and the widely lauded Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

The Guardian suggests that his best work could yet be ahead of him: Among current projects Adjaye is involved with are the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the National Cathedral of Ghana, in Accra; the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg; and the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Center in London.

A vocal proponent of the power of architecture to act against false narratives surrounding white supremacy and climate change, Adajaye, who has frequently chafed at being defined as a “Black architect,” has long served as a role model in an aggressively white industry: Just 1 percent of registered architects in his the UK, where Adjaye lives, are Black.

“It’s incredibly humbling and a great honor to have my peers recognize the work I have developed with my team and its contribution to the field over the past 25 years,” said Adjaye in a statement. “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 social impact of this discipline has been and will continue to be the guiding force in the experimentation that informs my practice.”