Interview with David Adjaye | The Plan
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Interview with David Adjaye

David Adjaye

Lucy Bullivant - Your most recently completed public projects, a pair of library buildings, named Idea Stores, situated in Whitechapel
(2001-5) and in Poplar (2001-4) reinvent the traditional library institution in the form of accessible and lively spaces that offer a hybrid reading of the library as an informal educational community centre building intimately associated with its local environment. You manage to create an appropriate language for a type and atmosphere of building that did not previously exist.
Can you explain the rationale behind your approach in these specific, down-at-heel contexts?
David Adjaye - I challenge the identity of each the public streets where the libraries are situated, unchanged since the 1960s, marked by a residential scale and neighbourhood shops - at Whitechapel a street market in front of the building.
I did not want to make another institution that detaches from the city. A monument would have been a patronising gesture for a public who want to engage. I challenge the tendency of the institution to be an image of goodness, shifting attention to a more relational way of planning the city that connects the building’s interior and its exterior, and perforating the traditional hierarchy of the institution.

L.B. - The building engages with architectural languages reminiscent of office buildings as well as - literally - a department store, each blurring into a set of repeated sequences.
D.A. - It is an intentional mix of languages that acknowledge the qualities of ‘insideness’ as being very different to ‘outsideness’, and therefore break with the classical tradition.

L.B. - You’ve received a lot of media comment about the Whitechapel Idea Store, not all of it positive.
One architect reviewer cited its apparent lack of craft, which is clear to me means an avoidance of doing things in the typical modernist, abstracted way, and that the critic cannot tolerate any alternatives.

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