Designer Spotlight

David Adjaye

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In 1966 in Tanzania, an architectural and design genius was born to Ghanaian parents.

The 46-year-old Ghanaian-British designer David Adjaye OBE is a generational leader in architectural design. Influenced by contemporary art, music, science, African art forms and the civic life of cities, Adjaye’s work has won worldwide recognition.

In 1994, Adjaye set up his first office, “where his ingenious use of materials and his sculptural ability established him as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision.” (Knoll.com) In 2000, Adjaye reformed his studio as Adjaye Associates, winning several prestigious commissions. Now with offices in London, Berlin, New York and Accra, Adjaye’s designs can be seen across the world in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.

In 2005, the Nobel Peace Centre, designed by Adjaye, was completed in what was once a railway station. Other projects by Adjaye include the Whitechapel Idea Store, the Stephen Lawrence Centre, Rivington Place and the Bernie Grant Centre for the performing arts in London.

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In the United States, his work includes the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, two public libraries in Washington DC and a host of innovative residential projects. In 2009, Adjaye’s award-winning firm was selected to design the forthcoming Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington DC. He was named the Wall Street Journal Magazine’s “Architecture Innovator” of 2013 for his Smithsonian design. The museum is scheduled to open in about two years.

“In one of our early conversations, before I made the final decision, David talked a lot about not being an American, but having an African root, and recognizing how important this story was for everyone. He had really immersed himself in African-American history,” museum director Lonnie Bunch III said in this September 2013 article in The New Yorker. “He could see this project for what I wanted it to be, which was not just a museum for black people but a museum to help people of one culture understand the experience of people of a different culture.”

In addition to his prestigious design projects, Adjaye has taught at the Royal College of Art and at the Architectural Association School in London. He has also held distinguished professorships at the universities of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Princeton.

Adjaye’s Washington Collection for Knoll was inspired and developed as The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture was coming to life. The collection transforms his architectural and sculptural vision into accessible objects for the home and office.

Trained in architecture, the production of furniture is relatively new for Adjaye. When approached by Knoll to design a chair, it was a new challenge for Adjaye. He recently spoke with Cool Hunting about the opportunity to design furniture for Knoll. In the video below, Adjaye explains why designing a chair was a challenge, and how he developed the design for the Skin and Skeleton chairs in his Washington Collection for Knoll.

Skeleton and Skin Chairs

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The pattern on the Skin and Skeleton chairs isn’t random; it is inspired by veins in a leaf. The Washington Skin Nylon Side Chair is particularly interesting because while the “veins” are seemingly aesthetic, they also are structural. You can see that they are much deeper near the bottom/center and fade out in the edges. On Skin, the inside face has the faintest markings of the structure in the back, just like a leaf. This chair is designed for indoor or outdoor use.

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The Skeleton Aluminum Side Chair is ideal for outdoor use. The geometric lattice design of the Skeleton chair is also both functional and sculptural. Skeleton is suitable for outdoor use.

Corona Bronze Coffee Table 

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The Corona Bronze Coffee Table is another unique design be Adjaye exclusively for Knoll. It is a reflection of Adjaye’s architectural and sculptural vision. It is constructed from four cast bronze panels and is a limited edition table marking Knoll’s 75th anniversary.

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David Adjaye is a rising leader in architectural design, well known for his designs seen around the world. With the addition of the Washington Collection for Knoll, he can now add furniture designer to his résumé.