Sir David Adjaye is presented with 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medal

Sir David Adjaye OBE has been presented with the prestigous RIBA 2021 Royal Gold Medal, one of the architecture world's highest accolades

Ruby City San Antonio
Ruby City, San Antonio.
(Image credit: Dror Baldinger)

The RIBA has presented Sir David Adjaye OBE with the Royal Gold Medal for architecture. The Ghanaian-British architect was announced to be the coveted accolade's recipient for 2021 this past September. Adjaye set up his studio in 2000 and has since produced an exceptional body of work. He has been influenced, he says, by ‘contemporary art, music and science to African art forms and the civic life of cities'. 

The honour's ceremony was broadcasted in a digital event across the globe, reaching from London to Accra (where the architect is currently located), the US and India. The beautifully presented event took place yesterday evening and included messages and congratulations from leading figures in the industry and beyond, from Theaster Gates (who was recently announced to design the 2022 Serpentine Pavilion) to Balkrishna Doshi and President Barack Obama. Meanwhile a discussion between Adjaye and Adjaye Associates associate principal  Lucy Tilley tracked the architect's journey so far and touched upon several of his current, prestigious works, such as the National Cathedral of Ghana

Widely acknowledged as one of the world’s highest honours for architecture, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Her Majesty The Queen. Its recipient is a person or group of people ‘who have had a significant influence either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture,' explains the RIBA. Adjaye has certainly done so, through critically acclaimed work that bridges history, community, debates about cities and urbanity and the arts, with a contemporary aesthetic – from the 2004/2005 Idea Stores in London, two community libraries, to the more recent Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC (2016).

san antonio architecture

(Image credit: Josh Huskin)

‘It’s incredibly humbling and a great honour to have my peers recognise the work I have developed with my team and its contribution to the field over the past 25 years,' said the architect at the award's announcement. ‘Architecture, for me, has always been about the creation of beauty to edify all peoples around the world equally and to contribute to the evolution of the craft. The social impact of this discipline has been and will continue to be the guiding force in the experimentation that informs my practice. A heartfelt and sincere moment of gratitude and thanks to all the people who supported the journey to get to this moment.'

The multi-award winner, who counts among his gongs the Best New Public Building at the 2020 Wallpaper* Design Awards for Ruby City in San Antonio, was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to architecture (following an OBE in 2007), and is continually going from strength to strength. Current work at his Accra, London and New York studios includes 130 William, a high-rise residential tower in New York’s financial district;  the Princeton University Art Museum in Princeton, New Jersey in collaboration with Cooper Robertson; The Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi; the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, London led by Adjaye Associates, with Ron Arad Architects as Memorial Architect, and Gustafson Porter + Bowman as Landscape Architect; and the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra. 

‘Through his work as an architect Sir David Adjaye speaks confidently across cultures, disciplines, politics and continents. His body of work is global and local, finely attuned as it reflects and responds to context and community, climate and culture,' said the 2021 RIBA Honours Committee. 

National Museum Of African American Arts And Culture

Smithsonian National Museum Of African American Arts And Culture, Washington

(Image credit: Nic Lehoux)

Mixed Use Development

Aishti Mixed Use Development, Beirut.

(Image credit: Julien Lanoo)

Art Centre London

Bernie Grant Art Centre, London

(Image credit: Assen Emilov)

Ideas Store London

Ideas Store Whitechapel, London 

(Image credit: Ideas Store Whitechapel, London )

School Of Management

Moscow School Of Management, Moscow

(Image credit: Iwan Baan)

Museum Of Contemporary Art Denver Denver

Museum Of Contemporary Art Denver

(Image credit: Dean Kaufman)

Rivington Art Place London

Rivington Art Place London

(Image credit: Lyndon Douglas)

Sugar Hill Mixed Use Development New York

Sugar Hill Mixed Use Development, New York

(Image credit: Leonid Furmansky)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).