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NLA Annual Lecture 2017 by Sir David Adjaye OBE

It was a privilege to listen to architect and designer Sir David Adjaye OBE, in conversation with Peter Murray, the founder of the London Festival of Architecture at the Royal Geographical Society.

It is clear from Adjaye’s work, and his words, that he is an extraordinary talent but what came through most strongly was a really investigative approach in terms of how the response to a brief can develop. It is perhaps obvious to say but his attitude to each client, each job that he spoke of ‘authoring’, is one of an open view as to where the project might lead. Commenting that a consequence of public recognition often makes the audience assume they will get something that they could identify as an Adjaye style building, he was very clear to emphasise that clients would be disappointed as he and his collaborators approach each new project from a very individual standpoint resulting in an appropriate outcome, rather than one that could be identified as having the Adjaye look.

The development of a personal style is often a concern for new designers; Adjaye is a great exponent of those who utilise an ‘approach to the process of design’ as their style. He advises that the outcome can and should lead anywhere.

The collaborative element to Adjaye’s work was much discussed. With offices in the US, Africa and London, he stressed the diversity of his fellow designers in studio and celebrated the varied cultural influences available particularly in London. “I am lucky to travel all around the world, the people I meet, they envy London its diversity, its creative energy as a centre for culture and design”. He collaborates with many other architects, running what seems to be a multidisciplinary studio; Chris Ofili, Deyan Sudjic, James Turrell to name but three, pulling on all areas of fine art and design. His sustainable approach indicates a broad view and is “more about lifestyle and how we live” than simply focused on material and carbon footprint. He thinks about the use of a space for everyday life, mixing in with what is already established. Idea Store in Whitechapel High Street showcases this approach as a community library, presented in a completely democratic manner and rubbing shoulders with market stalls and regular ‘high street’ activity, completely at ease in such an achievement.

Questions from young, and older architects completed the evening with encouragement and advice. His message, decide what you want to do and follow that decision but do it with passion. Clear, sincere and eminently good advice, the passion from the speaker was obvious.

Alan Hughes