September has been a busy month for architect David Adjaye. The landmark National Museum of African American History and Culture he designed was opened by President Barack Obama in Washington on September 24 and, two days before that, he turned 50.
To top things off, a few days prior to the long-awaited museum opening – that saw Michelle Obama hug President George W. Bush in gratitude – Adjaye was awarded the Panerai London Design Medal, the largest of four prizes awarded at a gala event during the London Design Festival.
The Tanzanian-born, British-Ghanaian architect was described by judges as “an inspiration for the younger generation.”
Some of his projects include the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2007), the Stephen Lawrence Centre in London (2007), and the Aïshti Foundation’s cultural center and luxury shopping mall in Beirut (2016).
His latest opening in Washington joins a suite of Smithsonian institutions along the National Mall, sitting in the shadows of the Washington Monument and the White House.
While Adjaye’s firm was awarded the commission for the building in 2009, the concept of a national museum exploring African American history dates back almost a century, but was delayed by various design issues and bureaucratic setbacks along the way.
“The First Lady and the President have taken an interest in the project since day one,” Adjaye said at the museum ahead of the public opening. “We were scared that it wouldn’t open during (Obama’s) presidency because a typical Smithsonian project takes about 10 to 12 years to build … We’ve done it in eight, which is apparently the new record.”
Watch the video above for a first look inside the historic National Museum of African American History and Culture.