Interviewed in London, November 15th 2007
David Adjaye belongs to a new generation of British architects, characterized by the domination of pluralism in expression as well as consent to abandon the tradition of high-tech and exploring phenomenological, perceptive qualities of space. Adjaye rounded off the first phase of his work in a series of family houses, showing his unique sensibility for haptic features of space where light, reduced geometry and careful usage of materials play important roles. Within such a concept, Adjaye articulates the house as an elegant artefact, inserted in a built-up environment in the form of a contrasting intervention. Adjaye further develops his work in the area of the public architecture of institutions, relying, among other things, on his exploration of African cities and common vitality of non-planned urban dynamics. His work is certainly recognizable because of its high degree of aesthetisation and the tectonic simplicity of its building elements, which in a short time have made Adjaye one of the prominent protagonists of the international architectural scene.
ORIS: Deyan Sudjic described your architecture as integrated in place but cosmopolitan. There are other opinions that enhance this influence of Northern African vernacular architecture, like Moroccan street, Berber house and so on. How do you see your position within this interpretation?
Adjaye: Interpretations are just interpretations. I make the work and it becomes a form of agency for meaning to be formed around it. I don’t make the work starting from the notion that this is an interpretation of something, I’m not interested in that. I work away from trying to understand how to bring a synthesis or resolution to an architectural problem, and then comes meaning around it. In that discourse I am very influenced by a wide range of things, but my primary driver is this notion of imbrication which for me is a kind of a tight proximity. Tighter proximity is the power, it’s the thing that drives the way in which I want to make the work. In a way, these models are more clearly seen in the context, because most vernacular contexts are about tight woven communities, so in a way it’s easier to make relational comparisons with those things. But it’s not specifically about an interpretation of vernacular into a city. It’s about the idea of closeness.