Smithsonian Institution


National Museum of African American History and Culture

Washington, DC

350,000 sf / 32,517 m2

Craftsmanship Award, Metals - Miscellaneous Metal Fabrication, Craftsmanship Award, HVAC - Sheet Metal, Craftsmanship Award, Doors and Windows - Interior Glass

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The Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroupJJR team was selected after a celebrated international competition to design the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). SmithGroupJJR leveraged its 35-year history of successful projects and relationship with the Smithsonian, providing strategic leadership for the design of the new NMAAHC, which will likely be the last museum constructed on the National Mall.  In its role as associated design/construction architect, SmithGroupJJR developed and coordinated the design and construction of the entire exterior enclosure of the museum: from curb to curb and foundations to the roof.  During the eight years of design and construction, SmithGroupJJR played a key role in the development of the exterior detailing and critical oversight of on-site construction administration and coordination spanning the entire architecture and engineering effort.

The primary architectural idea for the museum is the crown or corona form. Reaching toward the sky, the bronze clad corona expresses faith, hope and resiliency. Internal to the building, the corona forms a perimeter zone which surrounds the primary galleries. Daylight enters this zone through patterned openings in the bronze cladding and through skylights. At night, the corona softly glows presenting stunning views of the museum from a variety of vantage points in and around the Mall.

Below the corona, visitors enter the museum through a grand “porch” at the south (National Mall) side of the building while a secondary entrance is provided on the north (Constitution Ave.) side. The symbolic landscape is an integral part of the threshold experience, establishing the site as a critical component of the design while providing perimeter security and sustainable stormwater management. The Central Hall is the primary public space within the building and the point of orientation to the museum’s offerings. As visitors move through this generous space which includes a dynamic multi-media display, the cafe and museum shop are easily accessible. The project is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, and will welcome visitors beginning in the fall of 2016.