The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has named Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye winner of the 2021 Royal Gold Medal—the organization’s highest honor for architecture. “It’s incredibly humbling and a great honor to have my peers recognize the work I have developed with my team and its contribution to the field over the past 25 years,” said Adjaye, who was knighted in 2017 in recognition of his service to the architecture profession.

David Adjaye, photo © Chris Schwagga

The architect established his practice, Adjaye Associates, in 2000, with offices today in London, New York, and Accra, Ghana. The firm garnered international acclaim for leading the team (Freelon Adjaye/Bond SmithGroup) that designed the of Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016) in Washington, D.C., where Adjaye Associates also completed two neighborhood libraries in 2012.

Sugar Hill Mixed Use Development (2015) in New York, photo © Leonid Furmansky

Other works of note include Ruby City arts center (2019) in San Antonio, Texas; the Sugar Hill Mixed Use Development (2015) in New York; the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo(2010); the Museum of Contemporary Art (2007) in Denver; and the Nobel Peace Centre (2005) in Oslo.

“Through his work as an architect Sir David Adjaye speaks confidently across cultures, disciplines, politics and continents,” reads the jury citation. “His body of work is global and local, finely attuned as it reflects and responds to context and community, climate and culture.” RIBA President Alan Jones chaired the 2021 selection committee, composed of architects Lesley Lokko, Dorte Mandrup, and Shelley McNamara (who won last year’s award), and structural engineer Hanif Kara. 

Moscow School of Management Skolkovo (2010), photo © Aram Arakelyan

Currently, Adjaye Associates has projects underway across the globe, including New York's Studio Museum in Harlem and the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey (both in collaboration with Cooper Robertson); the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Dakar, Senegal; the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London (with memorial designer Ron Arad Architects and landscape architect Gustafson Porter + Bowman); the George Street Sydney Plaza in Sydney; and the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra, among others.

David Adjaye at Ruby City (2019), photo © Josh Huskin

“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,” said Adjaye, expressing his gratitude in a statement. “The social impact of this discipline has been and will continue to be the guiding force in the experimentation that informs my practice.”

The medal presentation will take place in 2021, at a date still to be determined due to pandemic uncertainty. Adjaye will be a keynote speaker at RECORD's Virtual Innovation Conference on October 27 and 28, 2020.