Photograph: Courtesy Adjaye AssociatesSmithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC.
Photograph: Courtesy Adjaye AssociatesDavid Adjaye
Photograph: Jeffrey SauersFrancis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library, Washington DC, 2012.
Photograph: Ed ReeveMoscow School of Management, Skolkovo, Russia, 2010.
Photograph: Courtesy Adjaye AssociatesWilliam O. Lockridge/Bellevue Library, Washington DC, 2012
Photograph: Ed ReeveSugar Hill, New York, USA, 2014.
The Art Institute builds a somewhat rudimentary survey of contemporary architect David Adjaye.
Billed as a “mid-career survey” of the work of contemporary architect David Adjaye, “Making Place” takes over two galleries in the Art Institute’s Modern Wing, filling them with representations of the more than 50 buildings he has completed to date. At 48-years-old, Adjaye is still considered a young gun in his highly competitive field, but a large portfolio of high profile projects speaks volumes about his ability to create structures that stand out amidst the work of his contemporaries.
“Making Place” begins with a collection of models that represent living spaces Adjaye has designed and built within the past 15 years. Ranging from the small residential Elektra House in London to the expansive Roman Ridge Gardens luxury apartment complex in Accra, each of these projects finds a balance between aesthetics and functionality. The collection communicates the architect’s stylistic fluidity, but the sterile presentation lacks the detail present in the rest of the exhibit.
Adjaye’s public buildings dominate the majority of the display, represented by another series of models spread across both galleries. Each model is accompanied by a collection of photos and drawings, echoing the mood boards Adjaye often creates to help inform the direction of his designs. Using this arrangement, the exhibit draws connections between design elements and the purposes they serve, both functionally and idealistically.
The soon-to-be completed Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture serves as one of the exhibition’s centerpieces, with sections of the intricate latticework that will line the building’s exterior accompanying an intricate model. The inspiration for the building’s striking, inverted pyramid design is also on display: a Yoruban sculpture by an African artist with a crown that mirrors the tiered structure being erected on the National Mall.
Elsewhere, the exhibition briefly touches upon a survey of architecture in African cities that Adjaye is in the process of personally completing. It seems like a fundamental part of the architect’s experience, but its presence is reduced to a series of iPads containing pictures of African buildings that guests are able to scroll through. A slatted, wooden pavilion, entitled “Horizon,” occupies the exhibit’s final room, allowing visitors to experience a full-scale representation of Adjaye’s work amid an ambient soundtrack.
The pavilion serves as a reminder that creating an exhibition about architecture is an inherently difficult task, as it involves finding ways to create facsimiles of existing works that capture the subjects’ grandeur and complexity. At times, the presentation can seem impersonal, often appearing more concerned with the act of innovation rather than the motivation behind it. “Making Place” is at its best when it moves beyond the aesthetic details and begins exploring the inspiration and meaning behind Adjaye’s designs, stripping away the materials and exposing the humanity that lies at the foundation of his structures.
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