david adjaye's innovative material world visualized in 'alchemy' monograph by phaidon

david adjaye's innovative material world visualized in 'alchemy' monograph by phaidon

a take on David Adjaye’s innovative architecture 


This coming June, Phaidon will publish a thorough written study on the large scope of works by the international acclaimed architect David Adjaye. Called ‘Alchemy: The Material World of David Adjaye’, the book collects more than thirty public, commercial, and residential projects from Adjaye’s career to date categorized into five sections: Stone & Concrete, Wood, Metal, Glass, and Rammed Earth. Through his artistic lens, the monograph showcases his visionary sensibilities and ethos that contribute to diverse projects as well as the innovative use of materials and light. Each project is completed with an intricate and beautifully layered material palette, exuding a powerful presence.

‘My entire practice is about the negotiation of meanings and remeanings of material,’ as Adjaye puts it in the preface.


Written by acclaimed writer, editor, and journalist Spencer Bailey, ‘Alchemy’ celebrates Adjaye’s dynamic, ambitious, unconventional design philosophy that has made its mark worldwide. Some of the highlights featured in the book are the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (2007), the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (2016), and the Abrahamic Family House interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi (2023). Each project comes with a series of outstanding images, text descriptions and captions, as well as detail shots.

david adjaye's innovative material world visualized in 'alchemy' monograph by phaidon
all images by Phaidon



through the lens of materials


Sir David Adjaye OM OBE is an award-winning Ghanaian-British architect with studios in Accra, London and New York. His climatically sensitive and thoughtfully composed spaces have distinguished him as one of the leading architects of his generation. The firm’s extensive range of work, characterized by visionary sensibility, indigenous use of the material, and a profound sense of local understanding, has resulted in exceptional buildings from the Dirty House in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood to the Aïshti Foundation in Beirut to the transformative Winter Park Library in Florida. 


Spencer Bailey brings these works together in an extensive introduction based on conversations with Adjaye over a number of years and an ‘afterword that positions Adjaye’s work within the greater cultural and social scholarship of writers and academics such as Elizabeth Alexander, Jelani Cobb, Saidiya Hartman, bell hooks, Fred Moten and Cornel West.’  The book also contains a foreword by artist Terestia Fernández and a preface by Adjaye himself. Each of the five sections begins with a brief list of featured projects and a short introduction from Bailey ‘outlining Adjaye’s connections with each material at hand.’  

david adjaye's innovative material world visualized in 'alchemy' monograph by phaidon
the Webster in Los Angeles

david adjaye's innovative material world visualized in 'alchemy' monograph by phaidon
the Nanjing House in rural China


The Dirty house in Shoreditch

david adjaye's innovative material world visualized in 'alchemy' monograph by phaidon
Gwangju Reading Room on the banks of the River Gwangju


david adjaye's innovative material world visualized in 'alchemy' monograph by phaidon
a warm, wibalin-textured cover with debossed details outlined in metallic silver



project info: 


title: Alchemy: The Material World of David Adjaye
author: Spencer Bailey

publication date: 22 June 2023
form: Size: 290 x 214 mm, 292 pages
publisher: Phaidon

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