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David Adjaye’s six best quotes from South by South Lawn 2016

See what the architect behind the National Museum of African American History & Culture had to say at this year’s first South by South Lawn

For Washington, D.C.’s first ever South by South Lawn (SXSL) event, award-winning architect David Adjaye spoke at a panel at the Newseum with artist James Turrell, with moderation by Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan. At the panel, titled "Hard Things Are Hard," the two focused on what kinds of challenges they have faced and how they overcame them.

Some of Adjaye’s most famous works include the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., the Rivington Place in London, and the Nobel Peace Center in Norway.

For those who missed the panel and for those who wish to relive it, Curbed DC has compiled the best of the best quotes spoken by Adjaye at the panel, seen below:

  1. "I think the idea of knowledge centers and the idea of public libraries ... create[s] within a community a collective space, a collective sharing space where different generations come together ... I think it brings architecture much more back to its primary purpose, which I think is this idea of a kind of understanding of where you are, a way of making a sensation of place, a way of being able to understand the world ... specifically where you are."
  2. "I think light is one of the powerful mediums. For me, color and light are the same thing. When I use color, I’m really talking about light. I’m not talking about color as symbolism."
  3. "I sort of became very disillusioned with the idea of the window just as a kind of device to bring light in or a glass wall as the device because I think that, yes, practically that makes sense, but actually, emotionally, in our deep subconscious, I think the idea of light really is about the way in which it’s filtered. I kind of imagine the sort of perception of light from a forest, or from a hilltop, or from a cave looking out. For me, I think we’re deeply hardwired with this emotion, and I’m interested very much in allowing architecture to reach back to that emotion. So, for me, when I’m making a piece of architecture, I’m thinking of how that perforation evokes an emotion."
  4. "I think I’m really obsessed with ideas and not scale. I try not to think about scale ... because I think if I started to think about the idea of the city or the idea of the object, I think that sort of collapses your creativity. So, for me, it’s just the issue of the idea."
  5. "I really believe that art and architecture is about learning from things that are done, not copying, but learning from. I’m very conscious of that. I think that it’s very foolhardy to sort of pretend that there isn’t a history and an incredible body of knowledge that is being kind of formed."
  6. "We live in an age where there are so many roots now. It used to feel like a world where it was a singular root [with] not many branches. I think what is possible [now] is there are so many ways to contribute to culture, and society, and the world that we kind of believe in, and I think that what I find inspiring about the time we live in is that there are these incredible possibilities. So, I don’t see limits. I mean, I know there are so many limits, but I see with those limits incredible opportunities all the time because I think as things collapse, then things can also be changed. As things kind of close down, things also open up. I’m very much interested in this dialectic ... Maybe I’m an eternal romantic optimist, but that’s what drives my creativity ..."

The SXSL event, hosted by the White House, featured interactive exhibits, screenings, and events with special guests like Leonardo DiCaprio and the cast members of the Netflix series Stranger Things. To catch up on all of the conversations had at the event, go to the SXSL website here.

To see the entire panel with Adjaye and Turrell, check out the White House’s YouTube video below. (Adjaye appears in the video at 48:00)

If there were any notable quotes left out, let Curbed DC know in the comments.


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