Adjaye Associates believes that architecture presents opportunities for transformation – materially, conceptually and sociologically. Driven by the desire to enrich and improve daily life, the practice’s
buildings are designed to meet the diverse needs of the communities they serve. Inspiration is drawn
from many influences around the world and the work clearly articulates this enthusiasm for issues
of place and identity.
The buildings belong to yet diverge from their contexts, absorbing and animating difference rather
than homogenising it. They are bold statements of a complex contemporary world and an unsettled territory of cultural experimentation. Private residences are places of urban retreat, while the civic buildings dissolve the idea of the institution. The emphasis on light, a distinctive material and colour palette, the play between positive and negative and the ability to turn constraints into compelling narratives, are critical themes.
Planning & Urbansim —
David Adjaye’s vision is one that promotes multiple interpretations of the civic experience. The
approach to urban development is driven by the human-scaled complexities of urban living in parallel
with the driving forces of topography, geography and climate. The celebration of difference that lies at the heart of the practice’s architecture feeds into its masterplanning projects – whether school and university campuses, re-developed urban quarters or entirely new cities. The work avoids monolithic statements and the use of utility logics to organise urban frameworks. Rather, it is dominated by the experience of transition, the possibility for capturing memory and meaning and the constant striving for an organic quality that can shift to express the sense of the city as a constantly evolving organism. Adjaye’s ability to navigate many forms of knowledge – from science, engineering and environment to artistic intervention
or community involvement – is key to the masterplanning methodology.
Adjaye Associates works at many different scales, with products and furniture providing a testing
ground for form as well as materials. This is something that powerfully informs the wider body of work – from residential to large civic projects. A number of these larger projects benefit from a complete service –
from architecture and planning down to the smallest details such as the furniture and signage, while some residential projects encompass permanent furniture elements that are integrated into the
David Adjaye’s belief in working together with artists and other cultural thinkers has led to a number
of notable collaborations and a lively cultural and creative discourse surrounding his practice. Adjaye Associates established its early reputation with a series of private houses where the artist was client,
and this dialogue continues with recent public buildings, pavilions and exhibitions.
“I like to collaborate with artists that see space and structure as integral to their work. It involves a
merging of skills and aesthetics to create something that has more potential than either discipline can achieve on its own.” (David Adjaye)
David Adjaye is widely seen as a role model for future generations. He participates in exhibitions,
lectures, symposia, publishing projects and television. The research arm of the practice is vital to the creative discourse that drives its built work. While every individual project has unique qualities, it is
the practice’s research that provides an overarching framework for experimentation, reflection
and theoretical connections. This philosophical curve is an essential context for challenging
typologies, engaging with historical references and offering a fresh approach to the contemporary condition and its future trajectories.
“Sustainability is not just material use or energy use...it is lifestyle.” (David Adjaye)
The idea of the material of sustainability is something Adjaye Associates believes that we have to
moveaway from. Sustainability is about the whole philosophy of how you use and live. It is therefore
not an add-on or even something that we consciously separate out from the design concept. The practice continually experiments with recycled, inexpensive materials and seeks to achieve the optimum environment through orientation, shading and sensitivity to the local climate.
There are very few locations in which people can live continuously without modifying the climatic conditions to maintain their comfort, and with global warming this is likely to become more necessary.
On the other hand, climatic conditions often determine aspects of a place that we most appreciate.
Adjaye Associates has developed a language of form that makes it possible to enjoy the specifics of climate while, at the same time, making modifications to the climate on a largely passive basis. The form of the Moscow School of Management, for example, was largely dictated by the need to deal with an extreme winter. The disc became a solution to misimise campus sprawl so that the entire campus is a compact
and therefore more energy efficient mass.
A number of buildings have achieved the relevant environmental accreditation – for example
the Denver Art Museum was awarded LEED gold. Similarly, the practice has been very ambitious
with the environmental strategy for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will achieve a minimum of a LEED Gold rating, while the recently opened Francis Gregory Library in Washington DC has achieved LEED silver and its partner library, the William O. Lockridge Bellevue Library surpassed the projected LEED silver to achieve LEED Gold.