Sir David Adjaye OBE receives the 2021 Royal Gold Medal for architecture

The UK’s highest honour for architecture is celebrated at a ceremony in Accra and London

by Archilovers
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The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced that yesterday evening (Wednesday 26 May 2021) Sir David Adjaye OBE was formally celebrated as the recipient of the 2021 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. The medal was presented by Iain Walker, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen.

Sir David Adjaye OBE receives the 2021 Royal Gold Medal in Accra, Ghana from the British High Commissioner, Iain Walker © Francis Kokoroko


This evening’s virtual celebration links Sir David Adjaye in Ghana, with the RIBA President Alan Jones in London, tributes from dignitaries around the world, and a global audience tuning in online.


Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”. Awarded since 1848, past Royal Gold Medallists include Zaha Hadid (2016), Frank Gehry (2000), Norman Foster (1983), Frank Lloyd Wright (1941) and Sir George Gilbert Scott (1859).

©Alex Fradkin

Sir David Adjaye is a Ghanaian-British architect who has received international attention for an exceptional body of work over 25 years. Drawing on his cited influences including ‘contemporary art, music and science to African art forms and the civic life of cities’, his completed projects range from private houses, exhibitions and furniture design, through to major cultural buildings and city masterplans. From the start of his career he has combined practice with teaching in schools of architecture in the UK and the USA, including professorships at the universities of Harvard, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Princeton.

His practice, Adjaye Associates, was founded in 2000 and today has studios in Accra, London and New York, with projects across the world.

Adjaye Associates are most well-known for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, in Washington, DC (2016), where they were lead designer of the Freelon Adjaye/Bond SmithGroup.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American Arts and Culture - Washington DC by David Adjaye,©Nic Lehoux

Other completed projects include Ruby City, an art centre in San Antonio, Texas (2019);

©Ruby City - San Antonio - Dror Baldinger FAIA

the Alara Concept Store in Lagos (2016); the Sugar Hill Development (housing, museum, community facilities and offices) in Harlem, New York (2015);

Sugar Hill Mixed-Use Development - New York -©Leonid Furmansky

the Aishti Foundation, a mixed use retail and arts centre in Beirut, Lebanon (2015);

Aishti Mixed-Use Development - Beirut - ©Julien Lanoo

two neighbourhood libraries in Washington, DC (both 2012); the SKOLKOVO - Moscow School of Management Skolkovo in Russia (2010);

MOSCOW School of Management - MOSCOW - ©Ed Reeve

the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado (2007);

Museum of Contemporary Art Denver -Denver - ©Dean Kaufman

the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, Norway (2005);
Rivington Place arts centre in Hackney, London (2007);

Rivington Art Place - London -©Lyndon Douglas

and the Idea Stores – two community libraries in London (2004, 2005). 

Current projects include a new home for The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York in collaboration with Cooper Robertson; 130 William, a high-rise residential tower in New York’s financial district; the International Finance Corporation(IFC) in Dakar, Senegal;  the Princeton University Art Museum in Princeton, New Jersey in collaboration with Cooper Robertson; the George Street Sydney Plaza in Sydney, Australia; The Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi; Winter Park Library and Events Center in Winter Park, Florida; the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, London led by Adjaye Associates, with Ron Arad Architects as Memorial Architect, and Gustafson Porter + Bowman as Landscape Architect; the Royal Benin Museum in Benin City, Nigeria; the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra; and the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Sir David Adjaye OBE said: 

“It’s incredibly humbling and a great honour to have my peers recognise the work I have developed with my team and its contribution to the field over the past 25 years. Architecture, for me, has always been about the creation of beauty to edify all peoples around the world equally and to contribute to the evolution of the craft. The social impact of this discipline has been and will continue to be the guiding force in the experimentation that informs my practice. A heartfelt and sincere moment of gratitude and thanks to all the people who supported the journey to get to this moment.”


RIBA President Alan Jones said: “It was my absolute pleasure and honour to chair the committee and be involved in selecting Sir David Adjaye as the 2021 Royal Gold Medallist.

At every scale, from private homes to major arts centres, one senses David Adjaye’s careful consideration of the creative and enriching power of architecture. His work is local and specific and at the same time global and inclusive. Blending history, art and science he creates highly crafted and engaging environments that balance contrasting themes and inspire us all. I believe his both practising and teaching in schools of architecture has significantly enriched his work. His artistic and social vision has created public projects that perfectly demonstrate the civic potential of architecture – fostering empathy, identity and pride. David’s contribution to architecture and design globally is already astounding, and I am excited that we have so much more of it to look forward to.”

Sir David Adjaye was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to architecture, following an OBE in 2007. As a student, he won the 1993 RIBA Bronze Medal for the best design project worldwide; in 2006 his Idea Store Whitechapel was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize for the best building of the year. He has won RIBA International Awards for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2008) and the Francis Gregory Library and William. O Lockridge/Bellevue Library in Washington DC (both 2013).

The 2021 Royal Gold Medal selection committee, chaired by RIBA President Alan Jones, comprised: architects Professor Lesley Lokko, Dorte Mandrup and last year’s Royal Gold Medal recipient Shelley McNamara and structural engineer Professor Hanif Kara. The full citation from the committee is in notes to editors. An essay by Simone de Gale – On Sir David Adjaye OBE– can be viewed in the image download folder.

RIBA has commissioned the artist, scholar and choreographer Adesola Akinleye to create a series of new video artworks inspired by the work of Sir David Adjaye OBE as part of the 2021 Royal Gold Medal celebrations.

The videos will be available to watch on the RIBA Youtube channel from today, Thursday 27 May.



Cover photo ©Francis Kokoroko

    NMAAHC - Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture 47

    NMAAHC - Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture

    Washington D.C. / United States / 2016

    Ruby City 8

    Ruby City

    San Antonio / United States / 2019

    Sugar Hill Development 7

    Sugar Hill Development

    New York / United States / 2014

    Aishti Foundation 28

    Aishti Foundation

    Beirut / Lebanon / 2015



    Moscow / Russian Federation / 2010