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    © Alan Karchmer / Smithsonian Institution
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    © Darren Bradley

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture

Washington, DC

Client: Smithsonian Institution
Architect: Freelon Adjaye Bond / SmithGroup
Completion: 2016

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest Smithsonian museum and occupies the last building site on the National Mall. The building is wrapped in 3,600 bronze-finish decorative panels which form a corona inspired by the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa. The lighting is designed to be in balance with the other prominent and iconic buildings. The challenge was to develop a design that captured the dignity of the building and its prominent location while being responsible to the budget and environment.

Below the corona, visitors enter the museum through a grand “porch” at the south side of the building (National Mall) while a secondary entrance is provided on the north side (Constitution Ave.). The Central Hall is the primary public space within the building and the point of orientation to the museum’s offerings.

The exterior illumination of the museum strikes a studied balance on the site between the White House and the Washington Monument by creating a soft lantern effect across the bronze façade. The predominant light source throughout the project is LED, which helps to make this the most efficient and sustainable building on the Mall.

  • 2018 AIA|NY Design Awards Best in Competition
  • 2017 IALD Award of Merit