David Adjaye

2016 Recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

David Adjaye, Sugar Hill, New York, NY. Photo: Ed Reeve.
Francis Gregory Library, Washington D.C. Adjaye and Associates. Credit: Jeff Sauers.
David Adjaye visits UrbanAfrica, a student organization in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Photo: Justin Knight.

About the Award

The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT recognizes rising, innovative talents and offers the recipient a $100,000 prize and a campus residency. Established in 1974 by the Council for the Arts at MIT, the Award is bestowed upon individuals whose artistic trajectory and body of work indicate that they will achieve the highest distinction as leaders in their fields. One of the most generous arts honors in the US, the Award reflects MIT’s commitment to risk-taking, problem solving and to the idea of connecting creative minds across disciplines. The McDermott Award is considered an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement.

The Residency

A distinctive feature of the Award is a campus residency, which includes a celebratory event at which the Award is presented, a public presentation of the artist’s work and significant interactions with students, faculty and staff. The goal of the residency is to provide the recipient unparalleled access to the creative energy and cutting-edge research found in the MIT community and to have the recipient connect with departments, laboratories and research centers throughout the Institute in ways that will be mutually enlightening.

2016 McDermott Award recipient David Adjaye made three visits to MIT in the Spring 2016 semester, each focusing upon a different facet of his work: libraries, the university campus, and museums.

The Selection Process

The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT may be given to an artist working in any field or cross-disciplinary activity, including architecture, creative writing, dance, design, filmmaking, media arts, music, theater and visual arts. Award nominees are identified by an Advisory Committee, which is composed of international leaders in arts and culture. An Award Committee, chosen by the Council for the Arts at MIT and comprised of arts leaders at MIT, then selects the recipient.

Eugene McDermott

The Award honors Eugene McDermott (1899-1973), cofounder of Texas Instruments and long-time friend and benefactor of MIT. The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT was created by the Council for the Arts at MIT in 1974 and further endowed by Eugene’s wife, Margaret.

A geophysicist, Eugene McDermott was a member of the MIT Corporation from 1960 to 1973.  The scholarship funds he established at MIT reflect his commitment to education and the public art he donated a conviction, shared with his wife Margaret, that the physical environment of a campus has great influence upon the character of an institution.  They commissioned Eugene’s Stevens Tech classmate Alexander Calder to create The Great Sail, which was dedicated in 1966 on McDermott Court, facing the Green building.  In 1976, the McDermott family and other friends of MIT made a gift of Three Piece Reclining Figure, Draped, by Henry Moore, which graces Killian Court.

Public Events

Past Events

Film Screening: Collaborations
Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Future of the Library
Wednesday-Thursday, February 10-11, 2016

McDermott Award Keynote Lecture
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Future of the Campus, MIT 2016 Symposium
Wednesday-Thursday, March 30-31, 2016

Future of the Museum
Wednesday-Thursday, April 27-28, 2016


David Adjaye OBE is recognized as a leading architect of his generation. Adjaye was born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents and his influences range from contemporary art, music and science to African art forms and the civic life of cities. In 1994 he set up his first office, where his ingenious use of materials and his sculptural ability established him as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision.

He reformed his studio as Adjaye Associates in 2000 and immediately won several prestigious commissions. In Oslo he designed the Nobel Peace Centre in the shell of a disused railway station (completed in 2005). In London his design for the Whitechapel Idea Store pioneered a new approach to the provision of information services (2005). Later projects in London included the Stephen Lawrence Centre, with teaching and community spaces (2007), Rivington Place, an exhibition venue and resource centre (2007), and the Bernie Grant Centre for the performing arts (2007). Adjaye Associates’ largest completed project to date is the £160 million Moscow School of Management Skolkovo (2010).

In the United States, Adjaye was the designer of a new home for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver (2007), two public libraries in Washington DC (2012), as well as of several innovative residential projects. In 2009 a team led by Adjaye was selected to design the new $360 million Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington DC. The practice has also completed a social housing scheme in New York’s Sugar Hill (2014), the Center for Art and Culture at Colgate University (ongoing), the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art at Harvard’s Hutchins Center (2014), a condominium development for Four Seasons in Washington DC (ongoing), and the new home for The Studio Museum in Harlem (ongoing).

Adjaye Associates now has offices in London, New York and Accra, with projects throughout the world. These include a shopping and cultural complex in Beirut (ongoing), a concept store in Lagos (2014), a new headquarters building for the International Finance Corporation in Dakar (ongoing) and a a children’s pediatric cancer center in Kigali, Rwanda (ongoing).

Adjaye frequently collaborates with contemporary artists on art and installation projects. Examples include The Upper Room, with thirteen paintings by Chris Ofili (2002), Within Reach, a second installation with Ofili in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2003), and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art for the 21st Century Pavilion that was designed to show a projection work by Olafur Eliasson, Your Black Horizon, at the 2005 Venice Biennale. The Upper Room is now in the permanent collection of Tate Britain. Adjaye is now collaborating with Okwui Enwezor on the design of the forthcoming 56th Venice Art Biennale.

Adjaye has taught at the Royal College of Art, where he had previously studied, and at the Architectural Association School in London, and has held distinguished professorships at the universities of Pennsylvania, Yale and Princeton. He is currently the John C. Portman Design Critic in Architecture at Harvard. He was awarded the OBE for services to architecture in 2007, received the Design Miami/ Year of the Artist title in 2011, the Wall Street Journal Innovator Award in 2013 and Harvard’s W.E.B Du Bois Medal in 2014.

The material from Adjaye’s ten-year study of the capital cities of Africa was shown in Urban Africa, an exhibition at the Design Museum, London (2010) and published as African Metropolitan Architecture (New York, 2011, and as Adjaye Africa Architecture, London, 2011). He was the artistic director of GEO-graphics: A map of art practices in Africa, past and present, a major exhibition at the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (2010). The last exhibition of his architectural work, David Adjaye: Output, was held at Gallery MA, Tokyo (2010). Adjaye recently collaborated with Okwui Enwezor on the design of the 56th Venice Art Biennale (2015). Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye, a midcareer retrospective exhibition, was held at Haus der Kunst in Munich and is at the Art Institute of Chicago September 19, 2015–January 3, 2016.

More at the artist’s website: David Adjaye.



Press Release

David Adjaye Awarded the 2016 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT
(Download the September 9, 2015 Press Release PDF)


Images and Press Inquiries
Leah Talatinian
Communications Manager, Arts at MIT

More information about the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT:
Leila W. Kinney
Executive Director, Arts Initiatives at MIT



Press Coverage of the 2016 Award:

ArchDaily: David Adjaye Awarded the 2016 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

Archinect: David Adjaye Named as Recipient of 2016 McDermott Award at MIT

Architect: 2016 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT Goes to David Adjaye

Architectural Record: David Adjaye Awarded 2016 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

Architizer: Pride of Britain: David Adjaye to Receive the 2016 Award in the Arts at MIT

Art and Education: David Adjaye Awarded the 2016 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

Artforum: David Adjaye Wins $100,000 Eugene McDermott Award

Artnet: David Adjaye Wins MIT Prize

Artnews: Morning Links: David Adjaye

Boston Globe: Architect David Adjaye honored at MIT

Boston Globe: Architect David Adjaye Receives Prestigious MIT Award

Bustler: David Adjaye wins 2016 McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

Contract: David Adjaye Wins MIT’s 2016 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts

Exhibart: David Adjaye vince l’Eugene McDermott Award per l’arte al MIT. Per l’architetto della Biennale di Enwezor 100mila dollari di premio

Hyperallergic: Art Movements

The Glowing Colours: Architect David Adjaye Wins $100K 2016 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts and Residency

World Architecture Community: David Adjaye receives 2016 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT


Press Coverage of Adjaye’s work:

Metropolis: Constructing a Narrative

BBC: ‘The First Sustainable Building on the National Mall’

Wall Street Journal Magazine: Architect David Adjaye’s World View

The New York Times: For 124 Families, This Lottery’s Jackpot Was an Affordable New Home in Manhattan

Wallpaper: The largest ever survey of David Adjaye’s work opens in Munich

The New York Times: Studio Museum in Harlem Unveils Design for Expansion

New York Times Style Magazine: A Major Exhibition for an Architect on the Rise

Smithsonian Magazine: Is Architecture Actually a Form of Weaving?

CNN: Ones to Watch – Architecture

Al Jazeera America: David Adjaye talks to Lisa Fletcher

Architectural Review: Film: Sugar Hill Housing in Manhattan

Wall Street Journal: ‘Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye’ Review

Washington Post: What $30 million gets you in Georgetown: An abandoned heating plant and the permitting headache of a lifetime

Residency Documentation