Skip to content

World-renowned architect, Sir David Adjaye OBE, to advise CWGC on righting historic wrongs

Sir David Adjaye OBE, the award-winning Ghanaian-British architect, has been appointed as Creative Advisor to the CWGC Non-Commemoration project.

Sir David Adjaye OBE (c) Chris SchwaggaThis project forms part of the findings released last year by a Special Committee, whose mandate – agreed by the Commission’s six-member Governments – was to produce a report on identifying gaps in commemoration of all servicemen and women who died during the two world wars and propose how any such gaps could be rectified.

Sir David’s first duty will see him chair the panel of adjudicators for the Cape Town Memorial architectural competition. The successful design of the new memorial, commissioned by the CWGC, will honour black South Africans who gave their lives in the First World War.

The memorial will be erected in Cape Town’s Company’s Gardens to commemorate more than 1,600 men whose names, until now, have not formerly been recorded and remembered. The memorial, to be funded and maintained in perpetuity by the CWGC, will deliver a measure of redress.

These men, who predominantly served in various labour units, including the Cape Coloured Labour Regiment, Cape Auxiliary Horse Transport, the Military Labour Bureau and the Military Labour Corps, were recruited in Africa specifically for service in Africa. They served in a non-combatant role as porters or carriers – transporting huge quantities of supplies across the African continent – and quite literally bore the weight of the war on their shoulders. Without them the war could not have been fought, let alone won.

The successful design, to be approved by Sir David and a panel of distinguished adjudicators, will not only ensure these men are finally commemorated in a manner befitting their sacrifices, but will add to the rich cultural and memorial heritage of the CWGC and South Africa.

Sir David Adjaye said: “I’m delighted to work with the CWGC as Creative Advisor on their Non-Commemoration Project. It presents an opportunity to address the imbalances that have happened in terms of commemorating the contributions and sacrifices made by certain ethnic groups that have not been acknowledged or recognised to date. It's so important that people remember the fallen. We can craft a new generation of memorials and monuments that serve to create a dignified legacy—with equal dignity for all of those who sacrificed their lives.”

We asked Sir David for his thoughts on the project, and to explain a little about what remembrance means to him.

Claire Horton, Director General of the CWGC, said: “Sir David Adjaye is a world-renowned architect and the CWGC is delighted that he will be working with us on this most important project. Sir David will help the CWGC take tangible steps to honour those who served and died but were overlooked. Too many people were casualties, not just because of the conflict of the World Wars, but of indifference to their service, suffering and sacrifice.

“As the work to remember previously non-commemorated war dead progresses, Sir David will continue to advise the CWGC on its commemorative approach – mentoring architects to deliver memorials that not only adequately commemorate the dead but add to the rich commemorative heritage of the CWGC estate. The CWGC tends to some of the most iconic architectural structures in the world and Sir David joins a distinguished line of architects such as Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Herbert Baker, Sir Reginald Blomfield and Charles Holden who have ensured the memory of the men and women who died in the two world wars is preserved with the utmost respect.”

Sir David has designed many notable buildings around the world, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. He was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to architecture. He is the recipient of the 2021 Royal Gold Medal, making him the first African recipient and one of the youngest recipients.

Photo of Sir David Adjaye © Chris Schwagga

Tags Non-Commemoration Report