David Adjaye: a House for an Art Collector
Texts by Peter Allison, Adam Lindemann and interviews with David Adjaye
Principal photography by Robert Polidori and Lyndon Douglas
(Rizzoli International, $50)
David Adjaye is the Michael Maltzan of British architecture, fusing the cerebral and the tactile, collaborating with artists and collectors, and creating buildings at both ends of the price spectrum. The National Museum of African Art in Washington DC will make him a household name when it’s completed, four years from now. Meanwhile, his reputation rests on the houses and community centers he built in the gritty East End of London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. It’s a big jump to the affluent Upper East Side of New York, a National Historical District where everything that’s visible from the street is sacrosanct. Adam Lindemann needed more space in which to display large contemporary works, bought an abandoned carriage house just off Park Avenue, and commissioned Adjaye to build an edgy, black concrete structure on six levels, concealed behind the protected Beaux Arts façade.
The house is a habitable work of art: a place in which family life and a rotating collection are layered together. The owner explains his goals and Peter Allison (who wrote two previous books on the architect) describes the process by which Adjaye created this dark and mysterious labyrinth, with its play of natural light and shadow, and textures that are as rough as you would find in a ruin. It’s radically different from the manicured perfectionism of neighboring interiors, though fine materials are used selectively in the living areas. However, there is one insuperable problem: the black tones absorb the light and impart a gloom to the photographs—even for a practitioner as skilled as Polidori. As with the minimalist white interiors of John Pawson, this is an interior that defies reproduction and needs to be experienced.