International Humanities Prize

About the Prize

The Washington University International Humanities Prize is awarded biennially to a person who has contributed significantly to the humanities through a body of work that has dramatically impacted how we understand the human condition. Past recipients are as follows: Sir David Adjaye (2018), Bill T. Jones (2016), Marjorie Perloff (2014), Ken Burns (2012), Francine Prose (2010), Michael Pollan (2008), Orhan Pamuk (2006).

The recipient receives a $25,000 prize and gives a public lecture on the Washington University campus, as well as interacting with students and community members throughout their visit.

A selection committee constituted by six members of the Washington University humanities faculty and two greater community members convenes to review nominated candidates and their body of work. The director of the Center for the Humanities invites the selected recipient approximately one year prior to the award ceremony. Faculty and student engagement with the recipient’s work is encouraged (including reading groups and special course work). During the visit, the recipient interacts with a wide range of members of the campus community, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and senior administration. 

International Humanities Prize 2018: Sir David Adjaye OBE

On October 29, 2018, the Center for the Humanities awarded the 2018 Washington University International Humanities Prize and Medal to internationally renowned architect Sir David Adjaye OBE. Recipients receive a $25,000 prize, the largest U.S. award for the humanities. During his campus visit, Adjaye spent time with the Washington University community and gave a public lecture.

Sir David Adjaye OBE

Selected by a subcommittee of the humanities center’s executive committee and members of the St. Louis community, Adjaye is recognized as a leading architect of his generation. Adjaye was born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents and his influences range from contemporary art, music and science to African art forms and the civic life of cities. In 1994, he set up his first office, where his ingenious use of materials and his sculptural ability established him as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision. He reformed his studio as Adjaye Associates in 2000. The firm now has offices in London, New York and Accra with projects in the US, UK, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. His largest project as of 2018, the $540 million Smithsonian Institute National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in fall of 2016 and was named Cultural Event of the Year by the New York Times. Other prominent works include the Sugar Hill mixed-use social housing scheme in Harlem, New York (2015) and the ongoing National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London.

In 2017, Adjaye was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen for services to Architecture, following the previous award of an OBE in 2007. The same year, he was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people of the year by TIME magazine. He has additionally received the Design Miami/Artist of the Year title in 2011, the Wall Street Journal Innovator Award in 2013 and the 2016 Panerai London Design Medal from the London Design Festival.