October 14, 2023

David Adjaye, Asaase

Arriving to the front lawn of deCordova’s Sculpture Park in October 2023 is David Adjaye’s Asaase (2021), the renowned architect’s first autonomous sculpture. Asaase means “earth” in Twi, a dialect of language spoken in Ghana, Africa. Referencing historic works of West African architecture such as the Tiébélé royal complex in Burkina Faso and the walled city of Agadez in Niger, Asaase is constructed from rammed earth and reflects on the origins of black architecture. The monumental sculpture is a labyrinthine form of nested walls that climb to conical shape at its center. Visitors can meander through these curving pathways and feel themselves immersed by the surrounding earthen walls. The sculpture’s circular spaces offer a reflection of time, from geological to human, and suggests both a deep, fragmented past and a meditation toward our shared future.

Installed as a long-term loan on deCordova’s front lawn, this artwork is a total integration of earth, sculpture, and environment. Rammed earth is one of the most ancient forms of human construction and is now gaining renewed appreciation as an ecologically sustainable way of building. Adjaye notes, “For me it’s actually the most profound material, because it’s the material that has sustained our humanity, literally, since our inception. We’re now in a moment where there’s this thought to cut away from the earth and to instead live in a kind of artifice where that biophilic relationship is severed. I am deeply invested in reconfiguring the image of rammed earth as a radical 21st-century material.”

About David Adjaye

David Adjaye (b. 1966) is a renowned Ghanaian-British architect whose iconic building projects include Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, UAE and the Nobel Peace Center in Olso, Norway. Adjaye is celebrated for designs that promote inclusion, community, and the elegant distillation of multiple backgrounds, especially those originating from African and Afro-diasporic culture. He has designed numerous museums and cultural centers, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the forthcoming Studio Museum in Harlem and often collaborates with artists and curators, including working with the late Okwui Enwezor on the design of the 56th Venice Art Biennale (2015) and building the personal homes of artist Chris Ofili and fashion designer Alexander McQueen, among others. Notable honors include England’s Royal Gold Medal (2021) and Order of Merit (2022).

Project support generously provided by an anonymous donor and Valerie Talland and Nagesh Mahanthappa.

Main Image Caption: David Adjaye, Asaase, 2021. Rammed earth. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Photo: Dror Baldinger. © David Adjaye

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