Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye has received the 2021 Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects in the UK.
The award is one of the highest in the field.
It’s the first time in the award’s 172-year history that it’s been presented to a Black architect.
The judges praised Adiaye as “a singular and timely talent and a strong reminder of the insightful and integrative role of the architect.”
Adjaye joins a pantheon of Royal Gold recipients that includes Frank Lloyd Wright (1941), Kenzō Tange (1965), Charles and Ray Eames (1979), Rem Koolhaas (2004), and Zaha Hadid (2016).
The son of a Ghanian diplomat, Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1966—two years after the country gained its independence from Great Britain.
His childhood was cosmopolitan and privileged: Adjaye was educated by private tutors as his family moved to Uganda, Egypt, Yemen, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon before settling in London in 1977.
He earned a B.A. at London South Bank University in 1990 and, three years later, a master’s from the Royal College of Art. In 2000, he launched his own firm, Adjaye Associates. Today it has offices in London, Accra, and New York, and commissions all over the world.
Though keen to avoid being labeled a “Black architect,” Adjaye acknowledges the role his roots play in his work.
He is be best remembered as the architect who designed the yet to be built National Cathedral in Ghana.