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David Adjaye
Stanford Humanities Center
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On Civic and Social Projects:

I could be doing lots of commercial work and making lots of money, but for me architecture is about the public realm. And that’s it. That is it. I mean I’m very happy that people are engaged in the private sector and commercial sector, but for me, that is really not an “architecture of engagement.” For me, the architecture of engagement is the public realm. So civic, educational, cultural, faith-based, governmental work is really a rich arena to create the archetypes that change society or move society forward. This is where I am focused and what I’m interested in.

(Dell M. Hamilton, “Precise Medicine: Reflections on Architecture with David Adjaye.”
110 (1) [2013]: 30–53.)

Collaborations: thinking about space and light for an exhibit of Chris Ofili’s paintings.

We invented the luminosity; it occurred through the experiment of the project! In the discussion with Chris about bringing down the light levels, I said that I needed to use a theatre lighting system to light the paintings, rather than a gallery system. I wanted a space where there was no light spillage, where the focus was exclusively on the presence of the paintings. The only way that we could work out how to do that was to use the lights that are used to frame actors on a stage and, when we did tests on Chris’s paintings, we realized that they had this incredible glaze that intensified the light coming off them. We suddenly had this new understanding of the paintings: it was not about light falling on them but the amount of light coming from them into the space—that was an extra bonus.

(From “Spaces For Art,” a conversation between Peter Allison and David Adjaye. In David Adjaye, Peter Allison, Adam Lindemann, Robert Polidori, and Lyndon Douglas.  David Adjaye: A House for an Art Collector. New York: Rizzoli, 2011. p.113.)

Galleries: On the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

There are different articulations of light throughout the project. In the perimeter avenue, as I call it, the diffuse light comes horizontally towards you. The light in the central space is about a directional marking: it allows you to understand the time of the day and what kind of day it is outside the gallery. This is the core, the only place where light is allowed directly into the plan. In the galleries you have the reflected light from the light chimneys that are expressed in the section. Then there is the sky that you come to on the roof, where you have this framing wall system. The only windows are primarily for the view: the big panel window on the front elevation acts as a lens for both galleries, even though the light is indirect, and the picture window above the entrance throws light into the perimeter space. The light changes in the way that it would in the outside world, in the city; it is not meant to be even and constant.

(David Adjaye, Peter Allison, Adam Lindemann, Robert Polidori, and Lyndon Douglas.
  David Adjaye: A House for an Art Collector. New York: Rizzoli, 2011. p.119.)

On the paradigm of African community of networks and interaction:

...there is an overly romantic relationship to the continent, coupled with a constant desire to mine pathologies as its archive. I choose to stay wide away from that. My general tendency, in my research and in my work, is to tap into the opportunities specific to the conditions at hand. I am a West African who was born in East Africa and who lives in the UK. As an architect, I have used this background as an operating basis. I don’t think this is reductive. On the contrary, I see it as a really strong opportunity to make a connection between different creative croups and to find the creative potential in what does not appear to be, on a first read, a place with much potential from an architectural point of view. My instincts, as an architect looking at the continent and its realities (social, geographic, political, etc.) are very open. I want to look at Africa, but not as an anthropologist or a scientist. What I want, rather, is to see it as an absolutely fertile opportunity for investigation. So I chose to travel the continent—north to south and east to west—to capture a unified visual image. There’s an intellectual image of the continent; as an architect, I am obsessed with the visual connectivity of African countries, above and beyond the specificity which comes from lingua franca or tribe—this is on of the basic premises of GEO-graphics. In my work on African capitals, I wanted to present the cities by focusing on their infrastructure, while keeping national identity at bay. This is a paradigm I want the city-images to convey.

(David Adjaye and Emiliano Battista. David Adjaye's Geo-Graphics:
A Map of Art Practices In Africa, Past and Present.
 Cinisello Balsamo, Milano: Silvana, 2010. p.370.)


On technical innovation, materials and the history of modern architecture:

...I cannot conceive of an architecture which does not refer back to a lineage that is already established. I conceive of my work within scenarios that have existed so I am not interested in the idea of architecture as thought out of the bubble, a new architecture for every occasion. I am very interested in making a connection within things that exist. In London, for instance, it is inevitable that one acknowledges what the high-tech world tried to do: the systematization of architecture, the importance of components, the idea of striving towards a certain kind of quality. The leaders of this movement were also referring to developments in America so there is a larger trajectory. I think that it is imperative to work through that lineage to the other side. But I am not interested in making explicit references: it is much more important to recognize where a position has been taken to and how you move it on. When two things have been put so close to each other that it is perfect, it is imperative for me to look for other possibilities which have not been covered within those developments. If we are talking about how to make things, I am always searching for the potentials that point towards how you add the discourse by giving the widest range to the issues that are out there.

(David Adjaye, Peter Allison, and Okwui Enwezor. David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings: Specificity, Customization, Imbrication. 1st pbk. ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006. p.121.)

On why Adjaye thinks that informal arrangements in architecture have potential:

The history of architecture has demonstrated that the formal has been at the forefront in terms of articulating the aesthetics of architecture but that the informal has always played a powerful role within society. I think that the formal has always been about everyday reality. I feel that the since the Renaissance, architecture has run away with this notion of the ideal and has attempted to impose it as the modus operandi. Now that there is an exhaust-tion of this mode, there has been a swing towards the fantastic: the ideal can no longer operate in society so let’s make pure fiction, lets make amazing buildings which only have to entertain us. Behind this question is the fact the we know how to deliver formal buildings but we are not so good at making informal those buildings that are about how human beings interact. We need to get a stereo image.

(David Adjaye, Peter Allison, and Okwui Enwezor. David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings : Specificity, Customization, Imbrication. 1st pbk. ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006. p.121-122.)

On significant issues for contemporary architecture:

I think [increasing accessibility to architecture] is the most important issue in contemporary architecture. In a world where the scenography of the global is on our doorstep, it is no longer possible to sustain a certain kind of enclosed identity. By default, we are all now travellers, either through our televisions or through physical space. The multiplicity of our perception is now a reality of our everyday lives. That profoundly affects the operating mode in which we perceive things: it is no longer singular, in a collective sense. It is no longer about understanding exactly what a certain material does within a space. That dose not register with me in the way that it used to, it no longer rises to the challenge of knowledge that has occurred. That is the game: to match the abilities that we have gained, through time, to get to where we are and to the way in which we perceive space now.

(David Adjaye, Peter Allison, and Okwui Enwezor. David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings : Specificity, Customization, Imbrication. 1st pbk. ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006. p.129.)

On a few selected projects by David Adjaye:

(Images and more information on these and other Adjaye projects can be found at, from which all of the following descriptions are quoted.)

Ofili House + Studio, London (1999)

Occupying the shell of a Huguenot silk weaver’s house, the Ofili house and studio is situated in Spitalfields. Silk-weaving took place on the top floor where there was more natural light than at street level. At a later stage, the lower floors were used as a shop and a storage space was built in the garden. In the latest recycling, the storeroom has been rebuilt as a painting studio and the silk-weaving space has become the main bedroom with a sleeping gallery. On the street, the change of programme is signalled by a folding and sliding screen. The studio receives natural light through the roof, constructed of glass pavement lights, and from a small court whose walls reflect sunlight through a glass screen. Artificial light is provided by fluorescent tubes and tungsten bulbs attached to the beams which support the roof.

Compared with the verticality of the original house, the studio and living areas have been organised as horizontal sequences of carefully differentiated spaces. The kitchen occupies a gallery that connects a sitting area, looking over the street, with the dining area. This glass extension opens directly onto the terrace formed by the roof of the studio and has a view of Christchurch Spitalfields, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, and the churchyard. Inspired by the materiality of the original staircase, the interior of the Ofili house is finished in natural (unpainted) plaster. Due to changes of use, it was necessary to continue the stair into the basement and up to the mezzanine. The lower extension engages with the architecture of the studio space and has concrete treads between solid walls; the upper extension is constructed of steel and the handrail demonstrates a similar fluidity to its historic counterpart.

Dirty House, London (2002)

The Dirty house and studio occupy the remains of a public house on a side street in Shoreditch. The majority of openings in the older building have been reused but the proportional balance between solid and void has been altered, in favour of solid, by extending the walls upwards to form a parapet on the top floor. The owners are two artists, Sue Webster and Tim Noble, who needed purpose-designed studio space and a place to live. In order to avoid any sense of tedium through living and working in the same environment, the two types of accommodation are quite separate. The studio spaces occupy the volume of the older building in an en filade arrangement that is entered through a tall lobby. With tinted reflective glass, the studios are private from the street. On the top floor, the living space occupies a central position and is surrounded on three sides by the main bedroom and a roof terrace.

The columns of the new steel structure, reinforcing the existing walls and supporting the top floor, are located on the inside face of the external walls. There is also an additional layer of thermal insulation in this position and the increased wall thickness is visible in the greater depth of the window openings. The openness of the living area is complemented by the containment of the main bedroom, although both spaces make use of rooflights to augment the level of natural light in the depth of the section.

Fog House, London (2004)

The Fog house occupies a small manufacturing building typical of the area, with a steel and glass envelope standing inside the shell of the earlier building. The envelope projects above the shell, giving a view across Clerkenwell’s rooftops, and out of one end, towards the parish church whose churchyard has become a small park. The horizontal and vertical projections of the envelope take different forms. Apart from sharing a party wall, the living space occupies a free-standing pavilion with a long side positioned against a brick parapet. Due to a legal difficulty with constructing foundations at the end of the site, the horizontal extension involves a substantial cantilever. In elevation, the sides of the top floor and the horizontal extension are in the same plane. The plans explore the archaeology of the site, masking irregularities in some cases and developing them in others. The latter option is explored in the splayed plan of the top floor.

All of the windows in the shell have been re-glazed with translucent glass so that they admit light without giving a view. The intensity of light depends on the distance from the ground and the orientation of the windows and this is especially clear when using the MDF staircase which is situated on an outside corner and has windows in two directions. On each of the main floors, the translucent glazing makes a connection between the arrival point and the view towards St James’ church, which is framed in a different way at each level. A tendency to polarise the edges of each floor is most clear in the main living space: a panoramic view of the parish church contrasts with a telescopic view of nearby roofs, and a gentle splay on the party wall contrasts with the strict linearity of the new wall opposite. The precise colouring of this wall, and of the space, itself is dependent on external conditions. In bright weather, it glows with diffused light; at other times, the glass has a darker colour and the internal reflections describe a virtual space that has a mysterious depth. The effect of the solid parapet behind this wall is comparable to that of the horizon in a Sugimoto seascape.

Stephen Lawrence Centre, with teaching and community spaces, London (2007)

The Stephen Lawrence Centre is both a memorial and a place of inspiration in honour of Stephen Lawrence, the architectural student murdered in 1993. The Centre is located in Brookmill Road, Lewisham and opened in autumn 2007. It offers services to the general population of the Lewisham area but has a unique contribution to make in relation to improving the life chances of black Caribbean and African young people. The Centre works closely with partners in the area to tackle under achievement and to increase young people’s motivation to embrace education and overcome barriers to fulfilment. The centre comprises meeting rooms, classrooms, IT labs, offices and exhibition spaces.

The site has a small river to the east and a neighbourhood park to the south. It is located between two types of housing: traditional terraced houses to the west and a line of higher apartment buildings to the east. The form and materiality of the centre attempts to reconcile these contrasting conditions within a single development. The height of the main volumes continues the scale of the terraced housing while the use of expanded metal mesh as a cladding material is intended to continue the light-responsive quality of the foliage in the park. The design of the ground plane is based on a drawing by the artist Chris Ofili. It is intended to encourage young people to enter the site and make use of the centre. The open forecourt, the gap between the buildings, and the elevated position of the smaller building establish a highly porous relationship between the centre and its surroundings. Two footbridges cross the river and provide access to a rejuvenated ecological and wildlife corridor alongside the Ravensbourne River. The pattern on the entrance facade is based on a drawing by Chris Ofili of a moiré pattern. The drawing is printed on a reflective film and laminated between the glass of the curtain walling system.

Rivington Place, an exhibition venue and resource centre, London (2007)

At the time of its launch, Rivington Place was the first new arts building in London to be backed with public funding since the Hayward Gallery, forty years earlier. Rivington Place is the permanent home for two arts organisations, Iniva (Institute of International Visual Art) and Autograph ABP. Not only a key addition to the London art scene, it provides a new and innovative visual arts space dedicated to work by practitioners from culturally diverse backgrounds. It serves as a centre of excellence for the presentation and dissemination of those ideas and practices in the contemporary visual arts, which have been marginalised by mainstream cultural institutions.

Located in a narrow street in Shoreditch, where the historic fabric includes a number of warehouses that have been re-colonised by cultural organisations and small businesses, the building is on a tight corner site, surrounded by other buildings. Entry is via a three-storey high atrium which is positioned half way down its long side. The public spaces are accessed from the atrium, with offices on the floors above. The external facade is punctuated by rectangular openings positioned within an expanding grid. The openings on the front elevation are the same width, but a different height, at each level. On the side elevation, both dimensions are changeable.

The effect of the facade system on the internal spaces varies in different parts of the building. It is not unusual for spaces to have windows at two different levels, the lower ones giving views into the street and the upper ones giving views of the sky. In the larger spaces, the windows produce an ambiguous sense of scale as their position and size contradict the effects of perspective. On the short facade, the pattern of the openings exaggerates the vertical perspective, making the building seem higher. On the long facade, the pattern of the openings contradicts the horizontal perspective, making the building appear shorter than it is.

Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London (2007)

The Bernie Grant Trust was established in 2000 to continue the work of the UK’s first black Member of Parliament. It was Grant’s view that the Tottenham area had produced a significant number of actors, musicians and writers, and it is for this reason that the trust took the decision to build a performance centre. The site for the centre was created by demolishing all but the front section of a disused swimming pool which had been part of a civic complex which included a town hall, local college and fire station. The façades of these buildings form a continuous frontage on the west side of Tottenham Green and, as distinguished examples of the period, are now protected.

The challenge for the new centre concerned the need to establish a strong connection with Tottenham Green from a position some way behind the protected facades. Complementing the open landscape of the Green, a more formal open space occupies the eastern section of the site. It is defined by the front of the Performance Building, the side walls of the town hall and college buildings, and west façade of the Hub (the retained section of the swimming pool and its extension). The position of the Performance Building is to one side of the axis of the open space in order that it is more visible from Tottenham Green, through the gap to the north of the town hall. This, in turn, creates a linear open space to the north which establishes a visual connection between the Green and the rear of the site where the Enterprise Centre is located. The length of the site is broken by the chimney of the old swimming pool which acts as a landmark for the centre and links the eastern and western ends of the site. Despite differences in height and function, all of the original buildings are visually connected by the projecting cornices and string courses cutting across each façade, albeit at different heights. The buildings of the centre continue this theme in that their external appearance is expressed as a series of horizontal bands which connect the new buildings to one another and to the existing buildings.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2007)

Winning the competition to create a new building for MCA Denver, made this project
Adjaye Associates’ first public commission in the US. With 20,000 square feet of exhibition, education and lecture spaces, bookshop and a roof garden area for outdoor art, the intention behind the design is for its architecture to ‘support rather than define the museum’s mission’. With no permanent collection, the museum is host to a programme of visiting exhibitions and for this reason the brief specified internal flexibility.

Differentiated by area and height, the art spaces are arranged in three separate stacks standing within a larger enclosure. The space between the stacks and the enclosure is used primarily for circulation, and the space between the stacks themselves is used to bring natural light into the heart of the building by means of a T-shaped rooflight. Two of the stacks support the members’ room and the education spaces, and the third supports an enclosed roof terrace. The members’ room terrace and the end wall of the education space enjoy an elevated view of downtown Denver.

At any one time, the museum will host one or more exhibitions on a variety of subjects and, to support an open-ended pattern of use, the materiality of the building is based on a limited number of monochromatic materials. The outer layer of the external walls consists of a double-glazed panel with grey-tinted glass on the outside and clear glass on the inside. The inner faces of both are sandblasted. The inner layer of the wall consists of panels of Monopan, a translucent plastic which provides the required level of insulation. The only other cladding material is American Redwood which is stained grey and used at ground and roof levels. On completion, MCA Denver achieved the distinction of Gold Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED), making it the nation’s first LEED certified contemporary art museum; pioneering sustainability and taking a leadership role in the reduction of energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and use of raw materials.

Sunken House, London (2007)

The form of this house combines certain attributes of its immediate neighbours. The De Beauvoir Estate is an area of semi-detached villas which have elegant proportions and shallow, hipped roofs. Unusually, for an area of this kind, a number of later workshop buildings have been added to the Victorian fabric and one of these is directly opposite the site. When seen from the street, the Sunken House appears to have the habitable volume of one of the two dwellings which make one of the semi-detached villas and, as such, represents the underlying unit of the Victorian development. But the flat roof matches that of the workshop building across the road and the language of the external openings (fixed glazing and solid doors and ventilation panels) has more to do with buildings of this type, rather than conventional houses.

With a section like a periscope, the interior is also organised on a different basis than the Victorian houses where the main livings spaces are located on a raised ground floor. Exploiting its infill site, the Sunken House stands in an excavated courtyard, which is not overlooked by the adjacent buildings, and the main living space is located at this level. The bedrooms are on the first floor, and there is a large studio on the second floor which benefits from a view of other people’s gardens without intruding on their privacy. Although the full height of the house cannot be seen from the street, it is visible in the space containing the staircase. In a typical London house, each floor has a slightly different relationship to the external context: with its private courtyard below and panoramic view above, the Sunken house both extends and polarises the usual pattern. The basic structure is constructed of prefabricated laminated timber panels with a rainscreen cladding.

Wakefield Market Hall, West Yorkshire (2008)

With a requirement for two market halls and a storage building, this project is part of a larger redevelopment program in which its role is to facilitate connections in the surrounding area. The space for the external market is especially significant in this respect. Its oversailing roof forms a portico toward the bus station and frames a protected route to the city center. Each hall has different proportions and a distinctive materiality. The experience of moving between a number of fully and partially enclosed spaces is one of continuous change and contrast. In the public square, the organisation of the roof structure is reflected in the pattern of the floor below in two shades of gray tiles. Within the main hall, the café at first-floor level calls for natural light at the southern end; the stallholders themselves prefer to use artificial light. For this reason, the roof lights increase in size as they move south. A large window in the southeast corner of the cafe frames the view toward the town center.

The walling system for the dry goods hall consists of large panels of laminated timber. The laminations are vertical but a series of horizontal grooves, more closely spaced at mid-height, have been routed out of the external face. At the back of the main hall, the dry store is constructed of concrete blocks with deeply raked joints. The walls of the food hall are constructed from concrete paving slabs that have been broken in half. They are laid in horizontal courses, like dry-stone walling, with the broken edges to the outside and the square edges to the inside.

Carriage House, New York (2008)

Carriage House pre-existed as an abandoned 1897 carriage house off Park Avenue in New York. It now stands as a living space for a young family and their extensive and enviable contemporary art collection. The façade remains true to its history and landmark status, while the interior has witnessed the removal of the old building and excavation of a deep cellar. Directly behind the façade hides an inner courtyard and sounds of the central fountain. The fountain sits as an open-air atrium beside the floating staircase that leads up to a roof garden, planted with sedum and moss; a combination which thrives through the winter and summer.

Building into the basement makes the six story building externally appear to be lower than it really is. Black concrete is the primary material used throughout the house offset against a number of different materials to define each space. It lines the interior of the carriage house and provides structural support to the existing façade. Despite its role as a unifying framing element, its appearance remains highly ambiguous. The concrete, for example, is irregular and roughly textured whereas the historic elements are finely preserved – reversing the nature of the contrast that often falls between old and new.

GEO-Graphics, Brussels (2010)

Urban Africa Touring Exhibition, London (2010)

Over the course of 10 years, Adjaye travelled and photographed each African capital city, which culminated in “Urban Africa: David Adjaye’s Photographic Survey” – a unique geo-cultural catalogue profiling the African city in a global context. Presented in an exhibition by the Design Museum in 2010 it has since toured globally. The project has been documented in a book – African Metropolitan Architecture – published in 2011. It was chosen as a Financial Times “favourite read” for that year as well as one of the Guardian’s “10 best contemporary African books”, described as “…a learned journey into the vibrant, beating heart of contemporary African life.” (26 August 2012).

African Metropolitan Architecture, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg (2011)

Genesis Pavilion, Miami (2011)

(See review, description, and images in Dezeen Magazine, 6 December 2011.)

Proenza Schouler Store, New York, (2012)

The space is comprised of two distinct retail zones (ground floor and second floor). The zones are flanked by 2 storey "relief" volumes at each end. The ground floor, which hosts small leather goods and handbags, is grounded by the timber walls and ceiling. The porosity of the timber members, allow for the existing building to be read as the host to which the timber pavilion is inserted. Leaving the timber area, space continues to a simple ground face concrete masonry unit wall (part of the old building language). In this two storey chamber, the bronze screen serves as a visual focus and a porous filter in and out of the stair path.

Upon arriving on the second floor, clients are greeted with the vivid colours of the Proenza Schouler ready-to-wear collection, contrasted against the neutral and familiar backdrop of precast concrete. Throughout the space, there is a mix of familiar materials, used in uniquely defined ways. It could be said that this is also part of the Proenza Schouler design for fashion, in which the seam stitching, re-use of fabric in unconventional methods, and composition of prints is all part of the language.

Sugar Hill Development, New York (2014)

Continuing the practice’s longstanding investigation into the design of houses and domestic space, Sugar Hill is a new mixed-use development in Manhattan’s historic Sugar Hill district of Harlem that will feature affordable housing, early education programs and a new cultural institution. Initiated by a non-profit developer of supportive housing, Broadway Housing Communities (BHC), and generated by a tight budget as well as the exacting parameters of the site, the concept challenges the traditional typology. Unusually, the scheme incorporates a public program, with a children’s museum and early childhood center, which resonates with Adjaye Associates’ commitment to a wider urban and cultural responsibility. The 13-storey, 124-apartment affordable housing complex will be located on W. 155th Street at St. Nicholas Avenue. The practice worked closely with the client and local community to ensure the design is tied to its history, practical and aesthetic requirements, through a series of workshops and planning meetings. The brief required a modern design complementary to its surrounding environment of Gothic revival row-houses.

The response is a textured slab building, which crowns a 76 foot base that steps back at the ninth floor to create a ten foot terrace and cantilever on opposite sides. The textured cladding is achieved with rose embossed pre-cast panels, which achieve a textured, ornamental effect. Saw-toothed fenestration fans across both façades, referencing bay windows that are a common feature of the area. These windows also frame 360' views of New York City including Central Park, One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, the Hudson and Harlem Rivers and the new Yankee Stadium. Terraces are placed on the second, third, ninth, and roof levels. At the base of the building is a Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling. The 18,036 square feet area has been designed with interactive exhibition and performance spaces and an artist-in-residence studio. The second floor will house a 12,196 square feet, light filled early childhood education center and offices for BHC are located on the ninth floor. The residences, education center and museum will be accessed from a landscaped public plaza on St. Nicholas Avenue.

Cape Coast Slavery Museum, Elmina, Ghana (Current)

Situated near the Cape Coast Castle – formerly used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade – the new Cape Coast Slavery Museum is a careful response to this historic building and an engaging forum within which to understand and learn about Ghanaian history. The museum programme will address this heritage, while also exploring the influence of Ghanaian culture on the diaspora. Significantly, President Barack Obama visited Cape Coast Castle in 2010, raising the global profile of the site. Set on the Cape Coast shoreline, the design concept combines a powerful sense of history with a response to the views and the climate.

Colgate University Center for Art and Culture (CAC), a public extension of the university’s commitment to the arts in Hamilton, NY. (Current)

(See “Architect David Adjaye presents design for Center for Art and Culture,” Colgate News, July 1, 2013.)

Gwangju Pavilion
Gwangju Pavilion, South Korea
Photo © Kyungsub Shin; used by permission of Adjaye Associates.

Gwangju Pavilion, Gwangju, South Korea (2013)

The River Reading Room sits on the banks of the River Gwangju and forms the final stepping stone connecting the River to the street level above. The pavilion is a memorial and draws inspiration from a Reading Room that encourages interaction between the city’s inhabitants through the exchange of books. Split over two levels it houses 200 books in memory of the 200 students of Chonnam National University, who lost their lives in May 1980. Each book is housed in a separate slot so they are clearly visible as individual elements, while appearing like a single entity within the pavilion.

Sitting on the banks of Gwangju River, the pavilion consists of two primary materials, concrete and timber. The concrete base takes into consideration the maximum level of the River and is designed so that it could be submerged in water at high tide. Steps are carved into the concrete to form seating areas and a viewing platforms on which to sit, read, contemplate and reflect.

Four pillars around the perimeter house the majority of the books and off these pillars a large timber structure is supported. The form of the timber is an interpretation of the traditional Korean pavilions, the four sided timber structure has arches on each side that rise and join in the centre. The full extent of this geometry only becomes visible once the users enter the interior of the pavilion. When the concrete is submerged, the timber structure appears to float above the water and the upper area of the pavilion has tables and seating to allow the Reading Room to be occupied and used in different ways, ensuring the pavilion is constantly changing and reflecting the condition of its surroundings.

The Washington Collection for Knoll, New York / London (2013)

(See “Architectural Digest Introduces the Washington Collection for Knoll™ by David Adjaye,” at

Stand Seven Stool (2014)

The Stand Seven stool is designed to reduce seating to a minimal and simplified form. A seat created from a structural tension – the stool is reduced to two legs to give it a geometry that is elegant while also creating a visual balancing trick.


Selection by Regina Lee Roberts,
Stanford University Libraries ©2014


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