Launch Slideshow

1. A central public space between galleries will allow groups to gather, relax, and discuss the exhibits they have seen. This is one area in the museum where the architects explored the workings of the traditional front porch, which symbolizes community and welcome in African-American culture. Not that the space looks like a porch. “We don’t believe that the themes need to be quite so literal,” says Philip Freelon.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The winning design and the runners-up for the design of the new museum on the National Mall.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The winning design and the runners-up for the design of the new museum on the National Mall.

  • 1. A central public space between galleries will allow groups to gather, relax, and discuss the exhibits they have seen. This is one area in the museum where the architects explored the workings of the traditional front porch, which symbolizes community and welcome in African-American culture. Not that the space looks like a porch. “We don’t believe that the themes need to be quite so literal,” says Philip Freelon.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpF52C%2Etmp_tcm20-183732.jpg

    1. A central public space between galleries will allow groups to gather, relax, and discuss the exhibits they have seen. This is one area in the museum where the architects explored the workings of the traditional front porch, which symbolizes community and welcome in African-American culture. Not that the space looks like a porch. “We don’t believe that the themes need to be quite so literal,” says Philip Freelon.

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    1. A central public space between galleries will allow groups to gather, relax, and discuss the exhibits they have seen. This is one area in the museum where the architects explored the workings of the traditional front porch, which symbolizes community and welcome in African-American culture. Not that the space looks like a porch. “We don’t believe that the themes need to be quite so literal,” says Philip Freelon.

  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture, a new Smithsonian venue led by museum director Lonnie Bunch, is expected to open on the National Mall by 2015. The museum will feature exhibits about major periods of African-American history including slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Harlem Renaissance. The institution is already building its collections, and has possession of 5,000 H.C. Anderson photographs and negatives from civil-rights-era Mississippi.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpF523%2Etmp_tcm20-183669.jpg

    The National Museum of African American History and Culture, a new Smithsonian venue led by museum director Lonnie Bunch, is expected to open on the National Mall by 2015. The museum will feature exhibits about major periods of African-American history including slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Harlem Renaissance. The institution is already building its collections, and has possession of 5,000 H.C. Anderson photographs and negatives from civil-rights-era Mississippi.

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    The National Museum of African American History and Culture, a new Smithsonian venue led by museum director Lonnie Bunch, is expected to open on the National Mall by 2015. The museum will feature exhibits about major periods of African-American history including slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Harlem Renaissance. The institution is already building its collections, and has possession of 5,000 H.C. Anderson photographs and negatives from civil-rights-era Mississippi.

  • Six architectural teams—including winners Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup  were selected from a field of 22 RFQ respondents to enter the design phase of the competition. Each of the six teams created feature design concepts and models that were on view in an exhibition at the Smithsonian for several weeks before the jury selected the winner. The other five finalist submissions are shown here.

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    Six architectural teams—including winners Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup were selected from a field of 22 RFQ respondents to enter the design phase of the competition. Each of the six teams created feature design concepts and models that were on view in an exhibition at the Smithsonian for several weeks before the jury selected the winner. The other five finalist submissions are shown here.

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    Six architectural teams—including winners Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup were selected from a field of 22 RFQ respondents to enter the design phase of the competition. Each of the six teams created feature design concepts and models that were on view in an exhibition at the Smithsonian for several weeks before the jury selected the winner. The other five finalist submissions are shown here.

  • 2. Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with KlingStubbins

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    2. Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with KlingStubbins

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    2. Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with KlingStubbins

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  • 3. Foster + Partners/URS

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    3. Foster + Partners/URS

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    3. Foster + Partners/URS

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  • 4. Moody Nolan in association with Antoine Predock Architect

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    4. Moody Nolan in association with Antoine Predock Architect

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    4. Moody Nolan in association with Antoine Predock Architect

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  • 5. Moshe Safdie and Associates in association with Sulton Campbell Britt & Associates

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    5. Moshe Safdie and Associates in association with Sulton Campbell Britt & Associates

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    5. Moshe Safdie and Associates in association with Sulton Campbell Britt & Associates

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  • 2. A canopy shades the Mall-side approach to the museum, but the lobby proper is flooded with light from a double-height glazed atrium. “As you move through the building, your eye is often drawn upward toward the sky,” says Peter Cook. The uplifting effect is quite deliberate. “It isn’t traceable to one thing,” he says. “But you get the feeling that the building is majestic and celebratory.”

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    2. A canopy shades the Mall-side approach to the museum, but the lobby proper is flooded with light from a double-height glazed atrium. “As you move through the building, your eye is often drawn upward toward the sky,” says Peter Cook. The uplifting effect is quite deliberate. “It isn’t traceable to one thing,” he says. “But you get the feeling that the building is majestic and celebratory.”

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    2. A canopy shades the Mall-side approach to the museum, but the lobby proper is flooded with light from a double-height glazed atrium. “As you move through the building, your eye is often drawn upward toward the sky,” says Peter Cook. The uplifting effect is quite deliberate. “It isn’t traceable to one thing,” he says. “But you get the feeling that the building is majestic and celebratory.”

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmpF52F%2Etmp_tcm20-183753.jpg

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  • 3. A site plan shows the location of the new museum, located on the north side of the National Mall, between the American History Museum (another member of the Smithsonian family) and the Washington Monument.

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    3. A site plan shows the location of the new museum, located on the north side of the National Mall, between the American History Museum (another member of the Smithsonian family) and the Washington Monument.

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    3. A site plan shows the location of the new museum, located on the north side of the National Mall, between the American History Museum (another member of the Smithsonian family) and the Washington Monument.

The architects from Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup had just 55 days from the notification that they were invited to the juried second phase of the competition for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture until the submission deadline. That’s not a lot of time for four firms to come together, gel as a team, and create a winning conceptual design for a new museum on the National Mall. “It was all hands on deck, with strong design leadership in David Adjaye,” says Philip Freelon, president of The Freelon Group.

What made that deadline feasible was a series of strong central ideas that served as a rallying point for the design. “A classical tripartite column with a base, a shaft, and a capital was a beginning,” Freelon says. “There are parallels in Yoruban art and architecture where the column are posts, and also in a human figure with a crown on its head. Our design is an abstraction of those ideas.” It was important to the team, says Davis Brody Bond Aedas principal Peter Cook, to represent both African and African-American influences. “We also looked at the notion of the front porch, which can be a place of welcome, togetherness, and family,” he says.

Now that the competition has been won, the team must turn from concept to reality. “The design idea took form very quickly,” says Freelon. The architects will revisit and reform their central concepts in a final design that will develop over several years. With a scheduled completion date of 2015 for the museum, there is less of a rush. For now, the team is taking a deep breath and enjoying their moment of victory.