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Davos 2021: Meet the winners of the 27th Annual Crystal Award

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Sir David Adjaye, architect and Sebastião Salgado, photographer winners of the World Economic Forum Crystal Award
Hilde Schwab
Chairperson and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, World Economic Forum Geneva
This article is part of: The Davos Agenda
  • The winners of the 27th Annual Crystal Award are architect, Sir David Adjaye OBE for his leadership in serving communities, cities and the environment, and photographer Sebastião Salgado for his leadership in addressing inequality and sustainability.
  • As cultural leaders, they provide creative vision that can cut through the limitations of short-term or linear thinking to bring about social change.

As we look ahead to new possibilities for 2021 after a challenging year of disruption, the enduring contributions to society of exceptional artists is ever more meaningful. The cultural leaders receiving the 2021 Crystal Awards are important storytellers of our time, who offer insights into the human challenges that give context to the possibility for change.


What is a Cultural Leader?

They connect us to each other, they give us a language to imagine, and they provide visions of the world that can cut through the limitations of short-term or linear thinking.

On the occasion of the 27th Annual Crystal Award, we are delighted to celebrate the leadership of architect Sir David Adjaye, and photographer Sebastião Salgado.

Join us as the winners are honoured at the opening session of The Davos Agenda 2021 at 19.00 CET on Sunday 24 January, webcast live at The Davos Agenda.


Sir David Adjaye OBE for his leadership in serving communities, cities and the environment

The Ghanaian-British architect, Sir David Adjaye OBE, demonstrates an ingenious use of materials with bespoke designs that set him apart as one of the leading architects of his generation.

Adjaye began to think about design as a child when he observed the challenges navigating buildings faced by his brother, Emmanuel, who is disabled. Since that time, he has used architecture as a social act, constructing buildings that acknowledge their histories, while creating something entirely new, in order to serve communities and achieve an ambitious environmental agenda.

His practice, Adjaye Associates, operates globally with a diverse portfolio of private houses, pavilions, monuments, memorials, libraries and museums. His largest project to date, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in 2016 and was named Cultural Event of the Year by The New York Times.

Left: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture. Right: Gwangju Pavilion. Image: Left: Alan Karchmer. Right: Kyungsub Shin

For me architecture represents opportunities for storytelling, justice and transformation and my ambition has always been toward projects with these qualities. I am deeply humbled to be recognized with this year's Crystal Award and inspired to continue to pursue my work with social impact as the guiding force.

Sir David Adjaye OBE

Sebastião Salgado for his leadership in addressing inequality and sustainability

Sebastião Salgado Image: Marcia Navarro

Salgado’s iconic black and white photographs span decades and over 100 countries.

His work documents life on earth, revealing both awe-inspiring and horrifying scenes, provoking debate about the human condition, and issues of inequality and sustainability. The photographs impart the dignity, and integrity of his subjects, without forcing their heroism, or implicitly soliciting pity.

Born in Brazil, Sebastião Salgado trained as an economist, before becoming a photographer, in the early 1970s. Today, he is recognized as one of the great photographers. He has produced, several extended documentary series, throughout his career, including Africa, Genesis, and his life and work are the subject of the book, From My Land to the Planet.

Salgado recently completed a photographic project about Brazil’s Amazon forest and its inhabitants, the indigenous communities. It aims to raise awareness of the threats they face from illegal logging, gold mining, dam building, cattle and soybean farming and, increasingly, climate change.

I became a photographer by accident. In the late 1960s, my wife Lélia and I moved to Paris to escape Brazil’s military dictators. While Lélia studied architecture, I was employed as an economist at the International Coffee Organization and I began traveling around Africa. At one moment, I borrowed Lélia’s camera and I began to see the world in a different way. That changed my life entirely. Soon I wanted to share what I saw through the lens of the camera. I am deeply honoured to receive the Crystal Award for my work.

Sebastião Salgado
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Image credit, top banner: left - Sir David Adjaye OBE by Josh Huskin, right - Sebastião Salgado by Renato Amoroso.

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