From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

Architect David Adjaye on Creating the World We Want to See

Known for projects like the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Adjaye believes in working together to build a better tomorrow.


Sam Heughan Is in Good Spirits

Film and TV

Sam Heughan Is in Good Spirits

The Scottish actor reflects on his homeland, the pleasure of a good drink, and the...

Jordan Casteel’s Love Languages


Jordan Casteel’s Love Languages

With her vivid, intimate portraits, the painter invites us into the private lives...

The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs Wrote the Book (Literally)


The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs Wrote the Book (Literally)

With the publication of her debut novel, the musician sings the praises of trying...

I don’t come from a formal arts family, but I’ve been very lucky to have had a wonderful education. I’m a son of diplomats, so we moved around a lot, and I was visually very stimulated by all that I encountered as a kid—from the pyramids of Egypt to the savannahs of East Africa to the deserts of the Middle East, right through to European cities.

I didn’t understand them, but I emotionally felt their power. An incredible teacher at art school realized that I had a capability as an architect but that I wasn’t paying attention to it, because I just didn’t have a window to what it could offer. He was a guide for me. I’m where I am because of people like that.

For me, architecture is a future art—it’s a system that we’ve built up to create the world that we want to see. It is literally the manifestation of our civilization. I use architecture to reframe the visual world, to improve narratives. Such “social change projects,” as I call them, include the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., or the Studio Museum in Harlem.

We’re no longer nation-states of single ethnicities. The world that we live in is going to become more complicated, not less. Whoever wishfully thinks otherwise is delusional, because the population is dramatically increasing. We have to grow together, not just play in a world of those who have and those who have not, but try to create a common destiny of improvement. —As told to Christine Ajudua

Discover more stories about how the arts are changing the world.

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