The University of Virginia, the School of Architecture and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation welcomed this year's TJF medalist in Architecture, Sir David Adjaye, to Grounds on April 12 and 13.
In addition to participating in an honorary dinner and the Founder's Day Celebration at Monticello, Adjaye, along with medalists in Law and Citizen Leadership, were presented their awards during a luncheon hosted at the Rotunda.
Faculty and students at the School of Architecture held a more informal Q+A with Adjaye in Campbell Hall during which he generously spoke about his approach to design and architecture. Adjaye articulated that the reconciliation between social responsibility and artistic voice in architectural design should not be seen as a compromise or competing aspects of a project. Rather, a powerful architecture is built upon a deep narrative that reveals the history of the built world. Such architecture can be strong in figure, but also quiet, expressing the impact of critical reflection.
Adjaye shared more about his work through his public talk, open to all members of the UVA community, Charlottesville, and beyond. For an audience of approximately 400 people, Sir David Adjaye presented three projects: the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra. Introduced by Dean Ila Berman as "one of the most creative architects of his generation," Adjaye articulated the heterogeneous influences and cultural histories that laid the foundational research for each project. In describing the National Museum of African American History and Culture, he said, "This museum really tries to make the history of the invisible visible." The talk also provided the audience with details about the museum's design, such as the previous existence of a slave market on the site of the museum and the specificity of the geometry and angle of the aperture that frames the Washington Monument. Of the architectural experience of the museum, Adjaye has said, "You don't look at it and say, 'I get the trauma of slavery.' It should just make you want to inquire. [It should] hint at many things." Further, Adjaye spoke about his personal connection to his projects through his upbringing as the son of a Ghanian diplomat and his friendship and collaboration with J. Max Bond, Jr., of Davis Brody Bond, one of the most influential African-American architects.
The School of Architecture is extremely proud of honoring Sir David Adjaye as this year’s Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medalist in Architecture and is grateful of his time, energy, passion and insights during his visit to UVA. Adjaye’s designs have shown how architecture can capture the public imagination and reveal multiple and complex histories through form and space, light and material.