CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


NELSON, Steven
David Adjaye's Cosmopolitan Eye

Session 18 Media and Visuality

University of California, Los Angeles


Born to Ghanaian parents in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1966, educated in Sri Lanka, and Great Britain, and currently based in New York and London, architect David Adjaye is the quintessential cosmopolitan subject. He has lived all over the world, and his buildings reflect a lifetime of migration and travel. In addition to an extensive portfolio of buildings across the globe, Adjaye is also an active writer, architectural researcher and curator. He conducted an 11-year-long research project that took him to 53 of Africa’s 54 African capital cities. This culminated in 2011 publication of a seven volume photographic survey titled, African Metropolitan Architecture.


Adjaye’s buildings are most often characterized as hybrid formations that bring together “African” sensibility and cutting edge modernism. Considering African Metropolitan Architecture, this discussion explores, using the books and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, set to open on September 24, as examples to show how Adjaye’s research in African cities, his use of African art, and his cosmopolitanism inflect the architect’s relationship to modern architecture. I also consider how these constitute what might be termed “architectural blackness.”

NELSON, Steven   

Steven Nelson is Director of the African Studies Center and Professor of African and African American Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also a former editor of African Arts. In addition to his award-winning book From Cameroon to Paris: Mousgoum Architecture in and out of African (2007), he has published widely on the arts, architecture and urbanism of Africa and its diasporas, African American art history, and queer studies. Professor Nelson has received fellowships from the Getty Research Institute and Harvard University. He is currently completing two books titled, “On The Underground Railroad” and “Structural Adjustment: Mapping, Geography, and the Visual Cultures of Blackness.”