November 20, 2002

Architect Shows Contemporary Works

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Yesterday, David Adjaye, one of London’s dazzling new contemporary architects, gave a lecture entitled “New Works” to a small crowd of architecture students in Sibley Hall.

Adjaye showed slides and video presentations of five various projects in and around London’s East End, meant to represent the spectrum of his work.

Adjaye’s work is characterized by an interest in “imprecise geometry and certain imperfections.” Straight lines and large plate glass, one of his trademarks, abundantly populated all the work he showed.

Adjaye cited Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy’s vernacular modernism as one of his biggest influences. Critics hail his work as innovating and “startling original.”

In the instance of a park bench and circle canopy, inspired by the image of light filtering through trees, Adjaye spoke of “architectural structure and artwork that seamlessly meld.”


The second project he showed was a cube house designed for a contemporary artist couple. The house stands out among a row of Victorian townhouses.

The black box-like house was an experiment in shape and form that Adjaye worked on without fee. “I wanted to propose something unconventional and I needed [the couple] to work with me.”

Adjaye said that this work captured his interest in “artificial versus natural light.” This interest carries through most of his other work, with large sky lights and windows contrasting with windowless rooms full of unusually placed lighting.

In speaking of another one of his houses, also designed for an artist couple, Adjaye said, “It sort of becomes a gift from the artist to the outside world.”

A common theme Adjaye said runs through his work is the idea of “appropriation of popular culture.” In one building, a library/community school, Adjaye incorporated a digital display into the wall of the structure in order to blend the images of the city seamlessly into the structure.

Adjaye attempts to avoid labeling his work as any particular style. Speaking of this he said, “It’s conceptual in that it deals with ideas, and gives me the freedom to swing from style and ideas.”

Adjaye’s work was well received by all those who attended the lecture.

“I though the idea of art becoming architecture, and vice versa was very interesting,” said Jennifer Nichols ’06, an architecture student.

Prof. Milton Curry ’88, architecture, said of Adjaye and his work, “He has a very energetic young practice, with a keen sense of materiality, [and] with a sound looking vision for urbanism.”

Adjaye opened his own firm in 1994, after graduating from the Royal College of Art. Adjaye/Associates as it is now known, is one of the most talked about young firms in England. It is located in Hoxton, London.

Archived article by Michael Margolis