David Adjaye is one of the great architectural visionaries of our time. His work—deeply rooted in both the present moment and the complex context of history—has envisioned new ways for culture to be represented and reflected in the built environment. Nowhere is this more evident than in his recent triumph on the National Mall.
Every architect has to contend with gravity—but when David designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the challenges of that elemental force went far beyond the ordinary. How can a design acknowledge, and embody, the weight of this monumental history and yet transcend it right before your eyes? How can a building be true to the earthbound burdens of centuries of oppression and struggle, while at the same time displaying the faith, joy and triumphs of African-American life, so that the structure soars into the light?
In his epoch-making design, David made us aware of those questions and brilliantly solved them, with a singular gesture.
Golden is the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem