Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye, The Art Institute of Chicago, through January 3, 2016
This mid-career survey of the British-African architect David Adjaye comprises a multi-modal view into the practice and theory of one of the most era-defining architects presently working. The exhibition is conceptually divided between domestic projects, including private houses and public housing, and public projects—exhibitions and temporary pavilions, arts centers, and civic buildings in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. These are represented by scale models, photographs, sketches, architectural fragments and several videos.
Adjaye is, in curator Lowery Stokes Sims’s phrase, “globally African” in his aesthetic sensibility, which draws upon both Modernist and Postmodernist spatial vocabularies along with specifically African architectural forms. He deploys this African sensibility through the quotation of African architectural elements in many of his buildings, but he abstracts them, thus situating them in the contemporary lexicon of the built environment. For example, the design for the Smithsonian African American History Museum, currently nearing completion, is based on the inverted ziggurat of classic Yoruba house pillars.
Adjaye has long collaborated with leading artists; he has designed houses for several artists, and a screen by Chris Ofili for a community center dedicated to the memory of Stephen Lawrence, a black British teenager slain in a racist crime, included in the exhibition, is a haunting and eloquent example of the deep humanism and faith in art shared by architect and artist.
Taking place in conjunction with the first Chicago Architectural Biennial, the exhibition makes clear the interdependence of art and architecture, and highlights the humanizing role that architecture can play in both private and public built environments.