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Sir David Adjaye: inspired by content, culture and history

Celebrated and globally renowned architect Sir David Adjaye weaves together the unique history of Lower Manhattan and its vibrant streetscapes along with the most luxurious interiors in the design of his latest residential skyscraper

While far-reaching and wide-ranging, all of Adjaye’s work is marked by a sense of openness and curiosity as he weaves disparate elements of inspiration — from culture to technology and science — into his designs
While far-reaching and wide-ranging, all of Adjaye’s work is marked by a sense of openness and curiosity as he weaves disparate elements of inspiration — from culture to technology and science — into his designs

With the recent launch of sales at 130 William in Lower Manhattan, New York City becomes the first city worldwide to boast a luxury residential skyscraper by renowned architect Sir David Adjaye. In an interview this summer, Adjaye spoke about his approach to architecture in general and to 130 William in particular, saying, “Wherever I work, I’m always looking for a way to think about history and also think to the future.” For 130 William, his immediate inspirations ranged from 19th- and early-20th-century masonry warehouse structures to contemporary cultural buildings such as the Met Breuer museum on the Upper East Side.

At 130 William, Sir David Adjaye designed a hand-cast concrete façade to create a striking form against the cityscape of Lower Manhattan
At 130 William, Sir David Adjaye designed a hand-cast concrete façade to create a striking form against the cityscape of Lower Manhattan

Adjaye’s sensitivity to the importance of context, culture and history is no surprise in the light of his personal journey. Born in Tanzania to a Ghanaian diplomat father, raised in a number of historically significant cities around the world, and educated in the United Kingdom, Adjaye has had an intimate experience of the relationship between physical structures and social constructs. He has deep insights into how design influences the way we live.

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In the case of 130 William, his mission for the exterior architecture was to connect a 66-storey, 800ft-tall skyscraper with both Manhattan’s iconic skyline and its vibrant streetscape while simultaneously creating luxuriously liveable interiors. Adjaye has achieved his mission in a way that only he could. Crafted from richly textured, hand-cast concrete, 130 William is a sharp contrast to the glass towers that dot Lower Manhattan. Even as it creates a distinctive new presence on the skyline, it plays off New York City’s masonry architecture, including the craftsmanship and detailing of the nearby Woolworth and Potter buildings. The tower’s large-scale arched windows and expansive balconies stretching across entire residences on loggia and penthouse levels blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living. “David’s design has created what we believe is the most astounding indoor-outdoor living in New York City,” says Scott Avram, senior vice president of development at Lightstone. “The loggias are genuinely spacious and truly serve as the extension of the home.”

Adjaye’s Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC won the prestigious Beazley Designs of the Year award in 2017
Adjaye’s Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC won the prestigious Beazley Designs of the Year award in 2017

Although 130 William is his first skyscraper in NYC, Adjaye has spent almost two decades honing his particular talent for residential architecture. He has designed private homes for clients with exceptionally refined aesthetic sensibilities, including designer Alexander McQueen, photographer Juergen Teller, actor Ewan McGregor and artists Jake Chapman, Tim Noble, Sue Webster, and Chris Ofili, among others. His portfolio stretches far beyond the residential realm to encompass retail, commercial and civic buildings, as well as artist collaborations. His highest-profile projects to date include the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management in Moscow. In the retail realm, Adjaye’s portfolio includes the Valextra store in London and both of Proenza Schouler’s New York City locations. In 2017, Adjaye was knighted by HM Queen Elizabeth II for services to British architecture. In the same year, he was added to Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People and Architectural Digest’s AD 100 list.

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Adjaye divides his time between his firm’s offices in London, New York and Accra, directing and overseeing his latest projects and planning what will come next in an already exceptionally accomplished career. In addition to 130 William, slated to open in 2020, his currently in-progress projects include the Studio Museum in Harlem, the National Cathedral of Ghana in Accra and the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London.

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