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The latest edition of ES Magazine: Men’s Edition sees 21st century architect Sir David Adjaye speak to The Design Museum’s director Deyan Sudjic. He talks about designing Britain’s most prominent Holocaust memorial and discusses the lessons we need to learn from the Grenfell tragedy.
Adjaye grew up in Tanzania, and moved between Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Uganda and the Lebanon for his father’s job. Speaking of that international childhood, he says, ‘My father was part of the first generation that Kwame Nkrumah [newly independent Ghana’s first president] trained to build a new nation.’
Adjaye first started thinking about architecture when he realised how inaccessible his school was for his disabled brother Emmanuel.
‘There was no architectural background in the family,’ he says. ‘This was in the 1980s, before disabled access laws had really taken root, and we found ourselves going through all kinds of awful and humiliating detours to find makeshift back entrances.’
On Greenfell and our capital city, he says, ‘London needs to be a more equitable city. Housing is fundamental, it requires not just the skills of the architect, and London has those, but also political will and the private sector. If Grenfell does not teach us about the need for more equity in the city, we are lost. Equity means somewhere decent to live for everyone.’
London continues to fascinate him architecturally, but he struggles with some of the problems we face as a nation.
‘I go around the world and come back here, and as much as I complain, there is nowhere like it,’ he says. ‘But I am worried for its politics, I am worried for its diversity and its openness.’
On the Holocaust memorial, he says, ‘In Britain we thought we didn’t need to make a Holocaust memorial: we had liberated the concentration camps. But even here Holocaust deniers have festered. History has taught us that we need a mechanism to remind us of what we did and why we did it.’
The full interview appears in this week’s issue of ES Magazine, out today (Thursday 11th October 2018).