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Top architect of the year honoured

Sir David Adjaye has been confirmed as the winner of the 2021 Royal Gold Medal, one of the world’s highest honours for architecture.

The Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Her Majesty The Queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence ‘either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture’.

Sir David Adjaye has achieved international attention for over 25 years. His completed projects range from private houses, exhibitions and furniture design, through to major cultural buildings and city masterplans. His style draws on African art forms as well as science.

From the start of his career he has combined practice with teaching in schools of architecture in the UK and the USA, including professorships at the universities of Harvard, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Princeton.

His practice, Adjaye Associates, is most well-known for its work on the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, DC, the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo in Russia, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, Norway and community library and arts projects in London.

Current projects include the George Street Sydney Plaza in Australia, The Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi and the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London.

On hearing the news that he will receive the Royal Gold Medal in 2021, Sir David Adjaye said:

It’s incredibly humbling and a great honour to have my peers recognise the work I have developed with my team and its contribution to the field over the past 25 years.

Architecture, for me, has always been about the creation of beauty to edify all peoples around the world equally and to contribute to the evolution of the craft.

The social impact of this discipline has been and will continue to be the guiding force in the experimentation that informs my practice. A heartfelt and sincere moment of gratitude and thanks to all the people who supported the journey to get to this moment.

RIBA President Alan Jones said: 

David’s contribution to architecture and design globally is already astounding, and I am excited that we have so much more of it to look forward to.

Sir David Adjaye was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to architecture, following an OBE in 2007. As a student, he won the 1993 RIBA Bronze Medal for the best design project worldwide; in 2006 his Idea Store Whitechapel was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize for the best building of the year. He has won RIBA International Awards for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2008) and the Francis Gregory Library and William. O Lockridge/Bellevue Library in Washington DC (both 2013).

The 2021 Royal Gold Medal selection committee, chaired by RIBA President Alan Jones, comprised: architects Lesley Lokko, Dorte Mandrup and last year’s Royal Gold Medal recipient Shelley McNamara and structural engineer Professor Hanif Kara.

Image: Josh Huskin / RIBA

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