New Smithsonian design approved

Correction appended

The newest Smithsonian addition, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, is expected to stand out as an architectural statement on the National Mall, Smithsonian officials said at a press conference in April.

The museum was approved by Congress six years ago, but the Smithsonian announced just last month that a design had been chosen for the building. The design team said the building is designed to be an embodiment of the African-American spirit.

The Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup won the job, beating out 22 other design teams that responded to the Smithsonian’s Request for Qualifications contest last summer. Six firms were chosen for the competition, which was decided on April 14.

The winning team is a hybrid of four architectural firms, The Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates, Davis Brody Bond, and SmithGroup. The Freelon Group will be the architect of record, and the group’s design experience includes the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore and the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

The Freelon team was selected by a jury chaired by Lonnie G. Bunch, the museum’s director.

“As we moved through this process, one thing was central to our thinking. We continued to be guided by our respect of this wonderfully important site,” Bunch said at the press conference.

David Adjaye, the lead designer, has called the opportunity “the dream of his career.” In the design materials, the team wrote, “The National Museum of African American History – the institution and the building – will be worthy of the museum’s vision and its prominent place on the National Mall.”

For Adjaye, the design had to reflect the celebration of the African-American journey.

“In terms of the motif, the iconography of the project, you’ll see that it’s really about this crown which sits on an elevated mound and the mound is, as it were, a porch, a canopy, a place to invite people to come and see the content, to come as a respite, to come and view and learn,” Adjaye said in a press conference following the design team’s announcement. “It’s really an elevated mound, with this corona, this celebration crown, which we think gives a powerful kind of message that this museum can send into the future.”

Construction on the museum will begin in 2012 and it is set to open in 2015. The museum will be located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian Institution announced that the total cost will be around $500 million and the Washington Business Journal reported that the federal government will cover half the cost. The other half will come from private donations.

“I am convinced they will design for us a signature green building, that will be distinctive, visible and yet complimentary to the monuments, and will enhance the architectural presence in this city,” G. Wayne Clough, the secretary of the Smithsonian, said at the press conference.

According to the Smithsonian Institution, the museum will host collections of artifacts, seminars, oral histories, and traveling exhibitions. Clough said the museum’s “compelling content will tell an essential part of the American story.”

The article previously referred to the Smithsonian Institution as the Smithsonian Institute. The organization’s name has been corrected.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.