The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has been handing out the Royal Gold Medal annually since 1848, the most important British award in the architecture sphere, originally established to recognise a professional or an architectural firm that has had a significant influence, directly or indirectly, on the progress of the discipline. Throughout its history, some of the architects that have received the prestigious medal include George Gilbert Scott (1859), Frank Lloyd Wright (1941), Norman Foster (1983), Renzo Piano (1989), Tadao Ando (1997), Frank Gehry (2000), Rem Koolhaas (2004) and Álvaro Siza Vieira (2009). In the last five years, the title has been awarded to Zaha Hadid (2016), Paulo Mendes da Rocha (2017), Neave Brown (2018), Nicholas Grimshaw (2019) and, in 2020, to the Grafton Architects studio founded by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. On May 26, 2021, in a virtual ceremony that united Ghana and the United Kingdom, mirroring the challenging and exceptional times in which we are currently living due to the ongoing global pandemic, the Royal Gold Medal was awarded to architect Sir David Adjaye OBE.
The Ghanaian-British architect has gained international attention over the past 25 years, continuously growing in popularity. The prize awarded to Sir David Adjaye therefore aims to recognise his long-standing contribution and work over the years. His studio, Adjaye Associates, was founded in 2000 with offices in Accra (the Capital of Ghana), London and New York. The Studio carries out projects around the world that differ in scope and size, from private residences to furnishings and exhibitions, as well as large cultural centres and city masterplans. The award also recognises the architect’s dedicated academic activity in both the UK and the US, at prestigious universities including Harvard, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Princeton.
In extending his gratitude to RIBA for the award and to all those who have supported and accompanied his journey over the years, Sir David Adjaye underlined how for him architecture "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 architect also stressed that "the social impact of this discipline has been and will continue to be the guiding force in the experimentation that informs [his] practice". Among the architect’s best-known projects that have earned him great international fame, we must certainly remember the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, created in collaboration with Freelon Adjaye / Bond SmithGroup in 2016 in Washington, DC. An architecture that stands in a symbolic location for American history along the National Mall, overlooking the White House, where on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. An iconic building that plays a vital role in remembering an important part of American history, particularly at a time when racial issues have returned to the forefront of social and political debate.
Currently, Adjaye Associates has several projects underway in various parts of the world: from the United States where the studio is collaborating with the Cooper Robertson firm to build a new home for the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; to Europe, where the studio is overseeing the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre project in collaboration with Ron Arad Architects as the architect of the memorial and Gustafson Porter + Bowman for the landscape design; up to Africa, with the National Cathedral of Ghana in the capital city of Accra, the Middle East with The Abrahamic Family House, an interreligious complex in Abu Dhabi and, finally, Australia with the George Street Sydney Plaza, in Sydney.
To celebrate Sir. David Adjaye and his achievements, RIBA commissioned artist, scholar and choreographer Adesola Akinleye to create a series of videos inspired by the architect’s works, available on RIBA’s YouTube channel.
Images courtesy of RIBA