Visible Man by R. Steven Lewis
David Adjaye is fast becoming a household name among architects, notwithstanding disagreement over how to pronounce his surname. There is one characteristic of his rapid ascent to the top of the profession, however, that is inescapable. David is a Black man of Ghanaian origin, educated in London and practicing globally at an opportune time in our history when being Black is arguably fashionable, much as it was for artists, writers and musicians during the 1920’s Harlem Renaissance. What is interesting and ironic about the comparison of today to that time is that there were very few, if any black architects who attained the status and notoriety of the likes of Langston Hughes and Aaron Douglass, who are emblematic products of that epic period in black American history.
Speculation over contributing externalities aside, David’s success can most credibly be attributed to a perfect storm – a confluence of design talent, business acumen, a boundlessly high level of self-expectation, good fortune with respect to early clients and resultant exposure, his embrace of cultural iconography as inspiration, and perhaps just a little bit of novelty in the persona of the man himself. He exudes self-assurance and confidence, while possessing humility and grace. As evidenced by his numerous lectures, including one presented to a capacity audience at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC on the opening night of the 2008 NOMA Conference, David has achieved “rock star” status. He has truly transcended the limitations that typically encumber anyone who is non-white and male in attaining “Starchitect” status.
David is emblematic of all that is possible when talent is the sole measure of achievement. Notwithstanding his metaphysical and physical beauty, David is a compelling phenomenon who is boldly going where no Black architect has gone before. Inasmuch, he has made accessible to aspiring architects, irrespective of race, gender or physical disability, the possibility of transcendent success. David Adjaye is our present and our future.