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Adjaye’s Smithsonian Museum named Design of the Year 2017

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Adjaye Associates’ Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC has been named the overall winner of the Design Museum’s annual awards

As well as winning the architecture category, the $540 million museum, delivered in collaboration with the Freelon Group and Davis Brody Bond, was handed the Beazley Design of the Year award for 2017 ahead of scores of other finalists from around the world, including a high-performance hijab by Nike, a stairclimbing wheelchair and ink manufactured from air pollution.

The judges praised Adjaye’s 39,000m² building, which features a bronze filigree cladding, for its ‘exciting and impactful design’ and for ‘capturing the spirit of the year’.

Among the other projects shortlisted in the architecture category were last year’s AJ Small Projects winner – Kate Darby Architects and David Connor Design’s Croft Lodge Studio restoration project in Leominster, Herefordshire – and the Antwerp Port House by Zaha Hadid Architects.

Adjaye’s victory is the latest in a series of major successes for the architect over the last 12 months. In May the 51-year-old collected his knighthood at Buckingham Palace and a few months later he won the contest to design a £40 million national Holocaust memorial next to the Palace of Westminster.

The judging panel for the Design Museum’s prestigious annual accolades, described as a celebration of ‘design that promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year’ included Amanda Levete, founder and principal of AL_A. 

Smithsonian Museum by Adjaye Associates

Smithsonian Museum by Adjaye Associates

Source: Alan Karchmer

Judges’ comments:

David Rowan, chair of the jury and editor-at-large of WIRED’s UK edition
The judges had the tough challenge of selecting a project that both epitomised exciting and impactful design and also captured the spirit of the year. David Adjaye’s Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington DC, did that beautifully. Not only is this a striking and already iconic structure at the heart of America’s capital, but it’s the realisation of an entire century of planning, rejection, political opposition and finally collaborative execution. But the building, opened by Barack Obama in September 2016, is also a powerful reminder that design enables a diverse conversation and can challenge the dominant political discourse. We felt that, in the context of today’s strident American debate on race and identity, Adjaye’s achievement represented optimism.

Ozwald Boateng, fashion designer
We couldn’t look any further than the Smithsonian for the overall award. It is a project of beautiful design, massive cultural impact, delivers an emotional experience and has a scale deserved of this major award. You enter the building clouded in darkness and work your way through the displays and end bathed in light. This is a project that feels like a major turning point.

Smithsonian Museum by Adjaye Associates

Smithsonian Museum by Adjaye Associates

Source: Alan Karchmer

Architecture shortlist

  • Mrs Fan’s Plug-In House by People’s Architecture Office
  • Warka Water by Arturo Vittori
  • Hegnhuset, memorial and learning centre on Utøya, Norway, by Blakstad Haffner Architects
  • Wind and Rain Bridge by Donn Holohan with students from the University of Hong Kong and Peitian Community Craftsmen
  • Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC by Adjaye Associates, The Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond, SmithGroupJJR 
  • Sala Beckett Theatre and International Drama Centre by Flores & Prats
  • The Calais Builds Project by Gráinne Hassett with migrants living in the Calais Jungle and students of Architecture from the University of Limerick
  • Croft Lodge Studio by Kate Darby Architects and David Connor Design
  • Lycée Schorge Secondary School by Kéré Architecture
  • Weltsadt- Refugees’ Memories and Futures as Models
  • The Environmental Enhancement of the Five Dragons Temple by Urbanus
  • Port House by Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Il Fondaco Tedeschi, Venice by OMA
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