David Adjaye’s Whitechapel Idea Store

As an unabashed fan of David Adjaye’s work, I was very much looking forward to visiting his Whitechapel Idea Store during my recent visit to London. My expectations were high, and I’m glad to say that the building most definitely did not disappoint.

The Idea Store – Adjaye’s work in general, really – show’s an incredible awareness of context. Although not as subtle as much of his work, the use of colored glass, drawn from vendor’s tents of the adjacent market, not only animates the exterior of the building, but also casts brilliant dynamic shadows on the interior.

The entrance to the building – or what should be the entrance to the building – projects out prominently over the sidewalk; further integrating the building within the neighborhood. An entry escalator slips between the sidewalk and the building – a liminal threshold from interior to exterior, that was closed, I was told, for “safety reasons.” No further explanations were offered.

Ample space is provided for the classrooms, studios, and workshops, but each programatic component isn’t necessarily relegated to a separate part of the building. Successfully integrating program elements in this manner seems like it will ensure that all floors are used, while prevent the manifestation of dead spaces.

Shelves and desks are integrated into the the building’s structural system and facade. Every component of the building seems to be supporting another. There is a definite sense of cohesion and coherence within the Whitechapel Idea Store that unfortunately, this seems to be lacking all to often in contemporary architecture.