David Adjaye – Making Memory at the Design Museum: Nine Things You Need to Know

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography

From Feb 2nd The Design Museum will be presenting a new exhibition that explores the role of monuments and memorials in the 21st century, through seven projects by celebrated British-Ghanaian architect, Sir David Adjaye OBE. Here’s nine things you need to know:

  • The exhibition features projects such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C, the new National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra and the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London.
  • Sir David Adjaye OBE will examine the idea of the monument and present his thinking on how architecture and form are used as storytelling devices. The exhibition shows that contemporary monuments are no longer static objects in a field – plaques, statues or neo-classical sculptures – but are dynamic and complex spaces that serve a wider purpose.
  • The exhibition opens with a visual survey of monuments and memorials starting with the Acropolis of Athens (447 BC) and continues through many places, cultures and ideas until the 2018 Millicent Fawcett statue by Gillian Wearing in London, UK.
  • Each of the seven projects, selected by Sir David Adjaye, is presented in a dedicated room alongside specially commissioned video interviews and immersive site-specific displays. For example, the Youruba sculpture that inspired the form of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is displayed at the centre of the room to demonstrate how Adjaye’s design process uses aspects of anthropology, history and sociology to investigate form and purpose.
  • The room dedicated to the National Cathedral of Ghana will be populated with traditional Asante umbrellas. The form of the Cathedral’s ‘canopy like’ roof is influenced by these Ghanaian umbrellas, the Baoman ceremonial canopy, and traditional tabernacle shelters – combining motifs from Christianity with Kingship and Western African tribal traditions.
  • Three further ongoing projects feature in the exhibition. This is the first opportunity to see an in-depth display of the proposed Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Boston, designed to be a place for discursive action and assembly.
  • Another room includes a dedicated space for the proposed UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre designed in collaboration with Ron Arad Architects as Memorial Architect and Gustafson Porter + Bowman as Landscape Architect. Visitors will also have a chance to explore MEMO – the Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory designed with Sebastian Brooke and proposed for a coastal site in Dorset.
  • Over the past few decades Sir David Adjaye has emerged as one of the leading architects of his generation. Born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, Adjaye’s influences range from contemporary art and music to science and African art forms. After moving to the UK, Adjaye studied architecture at the London South Bank University and the Royal College of Art before setting up his first office in 1994, later reformed as Adjaye Associates in 2000. The firm now has offices in London, New York and Accra and is working on projects across the globe.
  • As part of its programme, the Design Museum invites designers to think in public about a theme of their choice. Previous collaborations include Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius and 100 Mile City by Peter Barber.

The Design Museum is grateful for the support of the American Hardwood Export Council and Hitachi Digital Media Group.

Sir David Adjaye In Conversation
Monday 11 February, 18.30 – 20.00

Can architecture be used to record our memories and shape perceptions of past events? Can it help us better understand today?

In this talk, celebrated architect Sir David Adjaye examines the idea of the monument and explores how architecture and form can be used as storytelling devices, in conversation with architect and curator Nikolaus Hirsch.

The pair will discuss the meaning of ‘monuments’ today through focusing on several buildings that feature in David Adjaye: Making Memories exhibition at the Design Museum.

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00 (last admission 17:00)
Adult £12.00
Child (6 – 15 years) £6.50
Student/concession* £9.50
Family (1 adult + 3 children) £18.50
Family (2 adults + 3 children) £27.50
Children under 6 years free
Members free


IMAGE: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Credit: Alan Karchmer