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National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture

In 2007, Phil Freelon and J. Max Bond Jr. were chosen to complete the planning and pre- design for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. This preceded the museum’s international design competition, which was won by the team of Freelon, Bond, David Adjaye, and Hal Davis in 2009. The five hundred million dollar undertaking draws on several artifacts as inspiration for its form and fabrication on the five-acre site. Mirroring the slant of the Washington monument at seventeen degrees, the three tiers of the building reach upward and outward, like Yoruban caryatids or arms outstretched. The structure’s long, monumental overhang on ground level provides shading and a sense of enclosure, nodding to importance of porches in African American history and culture. The skin of the building is conceptualized as a corona; 3,600 bronze coated aluminum panels, inspired by the lasting iron lattice work of southern slaves, stitch together to foster a delicate infiltration of light. Sitting proud of transparent glass, the filigree transforms the building in different lighting conditions. As Mabel O. Wilson explains, “The Corona’s metallic carapace shimmers reddish-gold, deep sepia, or copper in the changing light, a dazzling tribute to African American contributions to American craft and building.”

Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Interior hall

Interior hall

Photo: Alan Karchmer, Smithsonian

Source

Mabel O. Wilson, Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books (2016), 9.