The State of the Art of David Adjaye / by Alston Thompson

Alongside the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Art Institute of Chicago showcased forty-nine year old David Adjaye’s mid-career body of work which includes fifty built projects. Having such a comprehensive look at an architect so young gives the exhibit a vitality and sense of possibility not often found in an architectural retrospective of this scope. Adjaye’s aesthetic is grounded in context. Adjaye strives to convey a sense of place with his designs; rather than showcasing a specific design style. Born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, and raised in the Middle East and England; Adjaye’s sensibilities are anything but parochial. As Adjaye’s pavilions and public places are accessible to the people in the surrounding community, so are the ideas behind their design. Rather than imposing an idea on a community through radical design, Adjaye’s designs are emblematic of the surrounding communities which lends context to his modern vision. His designs seek to bridge differences between people in communities struggling with cultural differences. Being the son of a diplomat, having lived in diverse cultures, Adjaye has clearly honed a mastery for reflecting the essence of a community with a welcoming, uplifting, modern aesthetic.  

In addition to models, sketches, floor plans and film clips; his 2007 wood-slat “Horizon” pavilion has been moved and reassembled on the 2nd floor of the Abbott Galleries in the modern section of the Art Institute of Chicago. If you are planning to attend the State of the Art of Architecture: Chicago Architecture Biennial, then you should take the time to experience this wonderful showcase of David Adjaye’s work.


Sarah Thompson inside Adjaye's "Horizon" pavilion.