Architect David Adjaye tops list of
UK's most influential black people


Architect David Adjaye

News: architect David Adjaye has topped a list of Britain's most influential black people, ahead of Olympic athlete Mo Farah, the shadow business secretary and the Archbishop of York.

The sixth annual PowerList, which ranks the top 100 black professionals regarded as role models in their field, also named make-up artist Pat McGrath and The Wire actor Idris Elba in its top 10.

Adjaye, who rebuilt his practice, Adjaye Associates, after entering a company voluntary arrangement in 2009 to avoid bankruptcy, is the first creative professional to be awarded the number one spot.

In the accompanying PowerList report, the architect described his joy after winning a "once in a hundred years" project to build the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., currently under construction. "We had to present to the most illustrious board, including Oprah Winfrey and Colin Powell. I was shaking like I'd just walked into the epicentre of the universe," he said. "But we won unanimously. It was extraordinary."

The announcement is another accolade for the Tanzanian-born architect, who was named Designer of the Year at Design Miami in 2011 and awarded an OBE in 2007 for services to British architecture. Adjaye was also shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2006 for the Whitechapel Idea Store, a glass-fronted community building in a deprived part of east London.

Earlier this year we reported on two libraries completed by Adjaye Associates in Washington D.C. – a timber and glass building with a chequered facade and an elevated concrete structure with yellow timber fins.

We also previously recorded a Dezeen podcast with Adjaye to coincide with Urban Africa, an exhibition of his photographs of African cities at London's Design Museum in 2010.

See all our stories about David Adjaye »

Photograph is by Ed Reeve.

  • hans

    Stupid racist category! Who cares if he’s black or not?

    • Craig

      I agree totally. Next, “most influential brown person”. Keeping the categories just continues the bigotry.

    • john

      Did someone say black? That's racist!

  • munter roe

    Is there a straight white male list? Or do we not need such special treatment?

  • lolo

    Racism is everywhere.

  • Richie

    I agree that lists like these are silly, but if it puts a spotlight on his work and allows him to act as a role model for young black people who might be considering architecture, then it’s served some purpose.

  • Color won’t matter if there is talent. This young person seems to have lots of it! Well done!

  • John P.

    Well, good for him. If he wasn’t black he wouldn’t be so well known. This is what they call positive descrimination nowadays. It’s certainly good for his practice. Eitherway, his work is not that good.

  • Will

    It’s not racism. I’ts like saying most influential woman, or most influential man, or most influential under 21 year old. Its just a category, some people are over sensitive.

  • Colonel Pancake

    Judge not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his CAD’s character.

  • Barry Reid

    And, ironically, only a month after BD ran a piece on him giving up on UK work.

  • the Pinchhiter

    White people always see the world through white eyes. For them, the default human being is a white (wo)man. Hence, the creation of stupid categories like, “first black man to do this”; “first Chinese man to do that”, and so on. If you hear of “first man to do this”, or “first woman to do that”, you should automatically assume that they are referring to a white homo sapien!

  • lee

    It does help for the minority groups without representation, because as a female I find Zaha an inspiration, even though I don’t necessarily like all her projects. But to know a female has made it, helps tell me that it is possible.

  • m.b.

    This is not a “category” award within a larger list as many here have wrongly described. It is simply an independant list of influential black people (beyond the obvious public figures – sports stars etc.) with whom young black people might identify. I agree that colour shouldn’t matter but it is a current reality – if a list like this can help some young people see potential in a brighter future then why the hell not?

  • Domingo

    Ahh, European culture. Belittlement and degradation in it’s perfect form.

  • raque

    Representation matters!