conversation – BLACK EXCELLENCE IN ARCHITECTURE
written by Brandon Broadus
For many people of the African diaspora entering the industry of architecture has been one of the more difficult career paths to pursue. With only a handful of actively licensed black architects its even harder to gain induvial recognition as most practices have very homogeneous representation. However, these amazing architects found a way to forward their initiatives and yield world level exception in the field of architecture.
Sir David Adjaye is one of the most renowned currently active architects in the world today. Born in Tanzania to Nigerian diplomat parents, Adjaye spent most of his early childhood moving throughout Africa until relocating to Britain at age 9. There Adjaye spent his formative years absorbing British culture and studying architecture at Royal College of Art. After winning several design prizes Adjaye set out into the working world initially working for David Chipperfield before starting his own practice Adjaye & Russell in 1994 with William Russell. After about 6 years Adjaye decided to branch off and start his eponymous firm Adjaye & Associates and the rest is history.
His distinct design style and unique problem solving abilities placed him in high demand for several large commercial projects across the globe. Perhaps most notably The Smithsonian national museum of African American History and Culture and the Moscow School of Management. Both Massive projects totally nearly $1 Billion in constructed budgets. Adjaye’s versatility and range in execution having designed some of the world’s most luxurious retail stores and residential homes makes him in icon in today’s world of design.
Nigerian architect Tosin Oshinowo is an esteemed young architect taking Africa by storm with her distinct eye and design vision. While growing up in Nigeria and working alongside her father on various commercial projects she eventually relocated to the UK to study architecture eventually earning her MA from the Bartlett School of Architecture. Upon graduation Oshinowo worked in Britain for a few firms learning the ropes until deciding to relocate back to Nigeria for more opportunity. There she found her stride quickly making a name for herself and eventually starting her own firm in CMdesign Atelier where she would gain the contract of the project that would put her on the world map in the Maryland Mall (the biggest in all of Lagos).
With several commercial executions under her belt her firm continues to diversify making its way in to the design furnishings space and continues its unique brand of innovative afro-modern architecture throughout Africa.
Samantha Josaphat is only the 397th licensed black architect in the history of American architecture and is accompanied by an even more limited cast of African American female architects (a representative 0.2%). Managing to push her way through a homogeneous gate kept industry she continues to innovate through her modern minimalist architecture style. Practicing in New York and gaining her MA from Penn State she now owns her firm Studio 397 and has designed for some of the world’s largest brands in high end apparel brand COS and GAFG. Josaphat has designed the major flagship locations of COS retail stores in North America and is continuing her commercial prowess with her latest project of Brooklyn’s massive Flatbush Canton Market.
This amazing young architect has already accomplished so much and continues to give back as she is practicing professor of Architecture at CUNY in New York. We look forward to her ushering in the next class of amazing black architects.