An exterior of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (Photo by Robert Chicoine).
By the time David Adjaye stood up to greet guests assembledon aprivate terrace at National Museum of African American History on Thursday night, many in the well-heeled crowd of about 50 people were already well aware of his rising profile.
The British architect, who was born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, spearheaded the much-lauded design for the landmark museum, which has won him praise across the spectrum, including President Barrack Obama who said the design helps “tell an essential part of our American story” during the museum’s opening ceremonies last month.
The event was hosted by Dom Pérignon and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, honoring David Adjaye & Associates.
“Being here is a magical moment,” Adjaye said, raising a glass to toast everyone who had a hand in bringing the project to fruition. “It has literally been a 100 years in the making.”
By almost any measure, Adjaye was already a star architect before taking on the Smithsonian project.
He Launched his career with a series of houses for artists in London back in the 1990’s, then went on to design public libraries in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, and an affordable housing complex in Harlem.
Next up for Adjaye is the master plan for the Hunters Point development in San Francisco where the first in a series projects begins with a 208 condominium complex. The massive project will eventually include a 437-acre extension of the city’s long-neglected Bayview neighborhood.
Taken together, the projects amassed by Adjaye, 50-years old, puts him on par with aging star designers such Richard Meier, Frank Gehry and Norman Foster.
“Communities relate to buildings and the city,” he tells me, smiling as he brushes off any talk of his rising profile. “How does a building affect the way a community works is what I’m most interested in and the Smithsonian project speaks to that.”
Chef Kwame Onwuachi, David Adjaye, Ashley Shaw-Scott, Jorge Cosano, head of communications at Dom Pérignon
The evening included a 4-course dinner by Chef Kwame Onwuachi with a menu inspired by African American cuisine, with flavors hailing from southern soul food, Caribbean & Creole backgrounds, and paired with a variety of vintages from Dom Pérignon
Vintages included Dom Pérignon Vintage 2006, Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2004, Dom Pérignon P2-1998 and Dom Pérignon P2-1995 Rosé, according to Richard Beaumont, USA Brand Director for Dom Pérignon Champagne.
Onwuachi, meantime, is opening his own restaurant in the Shaw district of Washington later this month. The Shaw Bijou will be a modern American restaurant housing only 8-tables and 26 seats, Onwuachi says.
The night’s highlight included a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Occupying three low, inverted-pyramid tiers, the building sits on what had been the last undeveloped museum site on the National Mall. It’s distinctive design includes an exterior clad in deep black-brown metal panels. More than 3,500 artifacts are on display, including a set of slave shackles, a Tuskegee Airmen biplane and Chuck Berry’s cherry-red Cadillac. The 400,000-square-foot museum is a sweeping survey of the African American experience, says Adjaye.
A gumbo dish by Chef Onwuachi’s (Photo by Robert Chicoine).