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.
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. 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.”