16/08/2017 11:57 SAST | Updated 16/08/2017 11:58 SAST

The African Renaissance Is Here, Says Sir David Adjaye Who Is In SA

"It is not about the technology. Architecture is about the mind."

David Adjaye at the Miami Beach Convention Centre in 2011 
Photo: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Design Miami
Alexander Tamargo via Getty Images
David Adjaye at the Miami Beach Convention Centre in 2011 Photo: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Design Miami

World renowned architect Sir David Adjaye, who recently unveiled his long-awaited Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, is in South Africa speaking about the renaissance of African architecture.

The Ghanaian-British architect also opened up about his rise to global fame from being the son of an immigrant. He is speaking at various locations in South Africa this month. He spoke at a lecture at the University of Johannesburg last week and will be heading to Cape Town next week.

"Essentially, the double, triple consciousness of Africans from slavery, into forced immigration and the history of Africa has forced Africans to develop a double consciousness to deal with the conditions that we are in, and have had to be metropolitan, right from the 15th Century," Adjaye told students at UJ.

"And most prejudices are based on lack of knowledge, and lack of reality, and that kind of engagement lets and forces you to let go of your prejudices and this makes you insert and remove yourself anywhere in the world."

In his talk, the 50-year-old told aspirant architect students what they could expect in their careers.

"My highs and lows have been varied. From trying to talk to a school teacher and getting the response that your family does not come from the background of the arts and so you shouldn't do it," he said.

"Maybe you should go to the sports or something like that. That moment has still not left me and I still go back to that."

Adjaye lived in Tanzania, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon before moving to Britain at the age of nine, according to reports.

He was honoured for his work and knighted by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, at a ceremony held at Buckingham Palace earlier this year. Some of his most celebrated designs included the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo and the Francis Gregory Neighbourhood library in Washington.

At the lecture, Adjaye said recent economic shifts had affected his career like other young architects in Africa.

"The recession and diminishing patrons just left me in a free-fall that I do not recommend on anyone going through," he said.

"Luckily with tenacity, I simply retooled myself and forced myself to become an architect of the world, picking up bags and entering competitions in Denver, New York, Middle East and wherever I needed to go."

He urged young people to open their minds as African architecture finds its place in the world. "Ultimately, the continent of Africa needs visibility, it's been a continent that has been too invisible for too long. It has incredible creativity, it has incredible opportunities," he said.

"It is not about the technology. Architecture is about the mind, and not the tools you are using. Yes we need the tools but ultimately the best architecture comes from the mind."