Winning the competition to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture has consolidated the practice’s US portfolio with arguably the nation’s most prestigious new building.
Located on Constitution Avenue, adjacent to the National Museum of American History and the Washington Monument, the museum houses exhibit galleries, administrative spaces, theater space and collections storage space for the NMAAHC.
As lead designer for the Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup (FAB) team, David Adjaye’s approach has been to establish both a meaningful relationship to this unique site as well as a strong conceptual resonance with America’s deep and longstanding African heritage.
The design rests on three cornerstones: the “corona” shape and form of the building; the extension of the building out into the landscape – the porch; and the bronze filigree envelope.
Situated on the Washington Monument grounds the museum maintains a subtle profile in the landscape – more than half is below ground – with five storeys above.
The corona is based on elements of the Washington Monument, closely matching the 17-degree angle of the capstone and the panel size and pattern has been developed using the Monument stones as a reference.
The entire building is wrapped in an ornamental bronze lattice that is a historical reference to African American craftsmanship. The density of the pattern can be modulated to control the amount of sunlight and transparency into the interior. The south entry is composed of the Porch and a central water feature.
An extension of the building out into the landscape, the porch creates an outdoor room that bridges the gap between the interior and exterior. At 50m (49’-2”) deep, the setback is similar to other buildings on the north side of the Mall. The underside of the porch roof is tilted upward allowing reflection of the moving water below.
This covered area creates a microclimate where breezes combine with the cooling waters to generate a place of refuge from the hot summer sun. There is also an outdoor patio on the porch rooftop that is accessed from a mezzanine level within the building.
Inside the building, visitors are guided on a historical and emotional journey, characterised by vast, column free spaces, a dramatic infusion of natural light and a diverse material palette comprising pre-cast concrete, timber and a glazed skin that sits within the bronze lattice.
Below ground, the ambiance is contemplative and monumental, achieved by the triple height history gallery and symbolized by the memorial space – the “oculus” – that brings light diffused by a cascade of water into the contemplative space from the Monument grounds.
Moving upwards, the views become pivotal, as one circulates along the corona with unrivaled panoramas of the Mall, Federal Triangle buildings and Monument Grounds.
Winner of Beazley Design of the Year 2017 - Design Museum
Innovative cooling system
High efficient façade
Grey Water Recycling
Low-emitting materials and finishes
Environmentally friendly furniture
Sustainable sourced timber
Smart design (passive design strategies)
Ground Source Heat Pump
Green or brown roofs
The construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture provides an opportunity to design and build a museum for the 21st century “that will demonstrate our nation’s commitment to sustainable development, and provide a living laboratory to share knowledge about sustainable construction and facility operation practices, and sustainable preservation and conservatorship of a major museum collection".
The building employs a number of sustainability features and strategies such as:
- Climate-responsive form
- Roof garden to help with storm water management
- Energy performance complying with the Energy Independence and Security Act 2007 (EISA 2007).
- Ground source heat pumps
- 301 photovoltaic roof panels that produce 122,803 kilowatt hours annually
- Thermal zones in the building based on different spatial needs
- Rainwater harvest for irrigation
- Maximize day lighting and reduce energy costs
- Water efficient fixtures
- Water harvesting system for irrigation and flushing fixtures
- 30% energy reduction from established baseline (ASHRAE)
- Full commissioning of the building to measure and verify compliance
- Construction waste management
- Use of recycled and recyclable materials
- Use of regional materials (500 mile radius)
- Use of FSC-certified timber based materials
- Monitoring of carbon dioxide
- Flush-out after construction to increase indoor air quality
- Daylight for 50% of the operational hours throughout the year
- 75% daylight all staff spaces
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Davis Brody Bond , SmithGroupJJR , The Freelon Group , Perkins + Will
Building services engineer:
WSP Flack + Kurtz
Fisher Marantz Stone
Shen Milson Wilke , R.A. Heintges & Associates , ARUP North America , Gustafson Guthrie Nichol
Guy Nordeson Associates , Robert Silman Associates
No other project by team
LEED 2009 NC Gold