BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS

David Adjaye

Prestige Indonesia - Lifestyle - - CONTENTS -

“There is an im­mense re­spon­si­bil­ity in­her­ent in this build­ing, to do jus­tice to a com­plex and sig­nif­i­cant his­tory of a peo­ple whose sto­ries are still too rarely told”

Sir DAVID A Djaye OBE is re­garded as one of the lead­ing ar­chi­tects of his gen­er­a­tion. He founded Adjaye As­so­ciates in 2000 as Prin­ci­pal Ar­chi­tect. Re­ceiv­ing ever-in­creas­ing world­wide at­ten­tion, the firm has opened of­fices in Lon­don and New York and has com­pleted projects in Europe, North Amer­ica, the Mid­dle East, Asia and Africa.

Two of the prac­tice’s largest com­mis­sions to date are the de­sign of the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion’s Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture on the Na­tional Mall in Wash­ing­ton D.C. and the Moscow School of Man­age­ment. Fur­ther projects range in scale from pri­vate houses, exhibitions and tem­po­rary

pavil­ions to ma­jor arts cen­tres, civic build­ings and masterplans.

Renowned for an eclec­tic ma­te­rial and colour pal­ette and a ca­pac­ity to of­fer a rich civic ex­pe­ri­ence, the build­ings dif­fer in form and style, yet are uni­fied by their abil­ity to gen­er­ate new ty­polo­gies and to ref­er­ence a wide cul­tural dis­course.

Com­pleted works in­clude: the re­gen­er­a­tive Morn­ing Lane Arches re­tail cor­ri­dor in Hack­ney, Lon­don (2016); Sugar Hill mu­seum and hous­ing de­vel­op­ment in Har­lem, New York (2015); the Aishti Foun­da­tion arts and shop­ping com­plex in Beirut, Le­banon (2015); Alara Con­cept Store in La­gos, Nige­ria (2014); Mar­ian Good­man Gallery, Lon­don (2014); the Ethel­bert Cooper Gallery of African and African Amer­i­can Art at the Hutchins Cen­tre, Har­vard Uni­ver­sity (2014); two neigh­bour­hood li­braries in Wash­ing­ton DC (2012); the Stephen Lawrence Cen­tre in Lon­don (2007); the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art in Den­ver (2007); Riv­ing­ton Place Gallery in Lon­don (2007); and The No­bel Peace Cen­tre in Oslo (2005). High­lights of an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the ar­chi­tect:

FIRST OF ALL, CON­GRAT­U­LA­TIONS ON YOUR KNIGHT­HOOD AN­NOUNCED IN THE NEW YEAR’S HON­OURS LIST. HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU HEARD THE NEWS?

I feel deeply hon­oured and hum­bled to re­ceive a knight­hood from Her Majesty the Queen. I see this not as a per­sonal achieve­ment, but as a cel­e­bra­tion of the vast po­ten­tial of ar­chi­tec­ture to ef­fect pos­i­tive so­cial change, a re­minder that we as ar­chi­tects have the power and re­spon­si­bil­ity to bring some­thing pos­i­tive to the world.

THE SMITH­SO­NIAN NA­TIONAL MU­SEUM OF AFRICAN AMER­I­CAN HIS­TORY AND CUL­TURE OPENED IN SEPTEM­BER 2016 AF­TER EIGHT YEARS OF WORK. HOW DID YOU GET IN­VOLVED IN THE PROJECT?

The mu­seum in Wash­ing­ton D.C. is a mon­u­men­tal project and ar­guably the defin­ing mo­ment of

my ca­reer. Ev­ery square foot of this project has been a mas­sive in­vest­ment of blood, sweat, and tears - eight years of in­ten­sive work. There is an im­mense re­spon­si­bil­ity in­her­ent in this build­ing, to do jus­tice to a com­plex and sig­nif­i­cant his­tory of a peo­ple whose sto­ries are still too rarely told. This project means so much to so many peo­ple. It is the cul­mi­na­tion of a 100-year fight and is truly so much big­ger than a build­ing. That was weighty and chal­leng­ing, but also in­vig­o­rat­ing.

There were so many at­tacks on our de­sign that it felt like a blood­bath at times. But we ended up with a build­ing that has 90 per­cent of what we wanted, which for ar­chi­tec­ture is a pretty good re­sult.

WHAT DO YOU WANT PEO­PLE TO GAIN MOST OUT OF THE MU­SEUM?

For me, it has al­ways been about cre­at­ing a mu­seum that has a spe­cific nar­ra­tive along­side a uni­ver­sal mes­sage. The African Amer­i­can story is about one cul­ture hav­ing em­pa­thy with an­other. My hope is that the mu­seum will tran­scend the un­easy fact of the marginalised African Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence though an open ex­plo­ration of his­tory, cul­ture and so­ci­ety - thereby ad­dress­ing pro­found as­pects of the hu­man con­di­tion and the pos­i­tive value in­her­ent in cre­at­ing a fo­rum for mul­ti­ple in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Amer­ica’s his­tory and de­mog­ra­phy - how­ever un­com­fort­able those may be.

I in­ten­tion­ally lay­ered dif­fer­ent ac­cess points - ma­te­ri­als that mir­ror the iconic Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment; a form de­rived from Yoruban art - to make a very spe­cific point about how the mi­gra­tion of a group of peo­ple fun­da­men­tally changed a na­tion. Amer­ica can­not be fully un­der­stood with­out this con­cep­tual lens. It is a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of African Amer­i­can her­itage in a global con­text, as one that is in fact about the be­gin­ning of mod­ernism and about global cul­tural en­gage­ment.

This is what the mu­seum’s de­sign is about: about hon­our­ing African Amer­i­cans’ con­tri­bu­tions to cul­ture and a strug­gle that has given Amer­ica so much; about re­think­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween Africa and Amer­ica; about recog­nis­ing that African Amer­i­can his­tory is Amer­i­can his­tory. It stands with and against the other in­sti­tu­tions on the Mall with ex­actly this pur­pose: to say that this too is Amer­i­can his­tory; this too is Amer­ica.

YOU HAVE BUILT HOMES FOR CELEBRI­TIES LIKE EWAN MC­GRE­GOR, AMONG OTH­ERS. HOW IN­VOLVED ARE THE CLIENTS IN THE WHOLE PROCESS? HOW MUCH CRE­ATIVE CON­TROL DO YOU HAVE AS AN AR­CHI­TECT?

It is a process of cre­ative di­a­logue… that ap­plies not only to the pri­vate homes I de­sign, but also to the pub­lic build­ings, pavil­ions and exhibitions. There is al­ways a broader re­spon­si­bil­ity, no mat­ter how per­sonal a project be­comes. Whether pub­lic or pri­vate, all of my build­ings en­gage with the ur­ban fab­ric and the ur­ban con­di­tion in the widest sense.

YOU HAVE SEV­ERAL UP­COM­ING PROJECTS, IN­CLUD­ING IN HAR­LEM AND MAN­HAT­TAN. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THEM?

Our next big project is the new home for the Stu­dio Mu­seum in Har­lem, a ma­jor arts in­sti­tu­tion, headed by Thelma Golden - one of the most vi­sion­ary cu­ra­to­rial arts lead­ers I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in my life­time. We’re full steam ahead on that, just go­ing into con­struc­tion.

There’s also a tower on Wil­lian Street (in down­town Man­hat­tan) that will be un­veiled in June. It is my first tower and some­thing I’ve been work­ing on for a long time. I’m very ex­cited about it. It’s a tower that re­ally at­tempts to achieve a mixed pric­ing belt, and to bring more af­ford­abil­ity to the down­town pocket of tow­ers, which are all about high bench­mark­ing.

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR PROJECTS?

It’s re­ally im­por­tant to me that I have a kind of eth­i­cal pride in my work. The first ques­tion I ask my­self when ap­proached with a new op­por­tu­nity is what kind of con­tri­bu­tion can this project make to its con­text, how can it con­tinue the nar­ra­tive of place, up­lift its com­mu­nity and of­fer new modes of en­gage­ment that pre­pare for the changes of the fu­ture? Th­ese are es­sen­tial ques­tions for me.

HOW DID YOU DIS­COVER YOUR TAL­ENT AND PAS­SION FOR DE­SIGN?

I was al­ways in­ter­ested in draw­ing and us­ing my imag­i­na­tion as a kid, and I was en­cour­aged by a teacher to do an art foun­da­tion course. It was dur­ing that time that my pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with space came to the fore and I re­alised that I wanted to study ar­chi­tec­ture. I wanted an art form that was in ser­vice to the pub­lic, in ser­vice to our idea of our civil­i­sa­tion and our idea of our col­lec­tive.

Ar­chi­tec­ture pro­vides me with the op­por­tu­nity to pro­duce art that has this kind of direct im­pact, that ca­pac­ity for so­cial ed­i­fi­ca­tion.

HOW WOULD YOU DE­SCRIBE YOUR SIG­NA­TURE STYLE AND AES­THETIC?

I am part of a gen­er­a­tion of ar­chi­tects that has moved away from the idea of a sig­na­ture style. My work is more about the specifics of cul­ture, place, ge­og­ra­phy and so on. If there is a uni­fy­ing el­e­ment - it might per­haps be my ap­proach to light and its treat­ment as a pri­mary ma­te­rial. But ev­ery con­text is dif­fer­ent, and ev­ery con­text has a new sce­nario. You can ac­tu­ally find dif­fer­ences and speci­fici­ties within con­text, which can drive things very pow­er­fully. I seek to find the soft nu­ances that peo­ple dis­re­gard.

clock­wise from left: SIR DAVID ADJAYE; THE UNDERGOUND CON­TEM­PLA­TIVE COURT ; THE MU­SEUM SPI­RAL­ING STAIR­CASE

MOSCOW SCHOOL OF MAN­AGE­MENT BY ED REEVE

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