Smithsonian Institution


National Museum of the American Indian

Washington, DC

250,000 GSF, 23,226 M2

Architecture, Interior Architecture


One of the most closely watched national museum projects in recent years, this stunning building features organic, curving walls of buff limestone that made it instant landmark on the Capitol Mall. SmithGroupJJR's key role in developing the design by Douglas Cardinal and GBQC helped uphold a significant public investment while also enhancing its key themes of reconciliation and the close connection between humankind and nature.

To resolve the museum's unique design concept, SmithGroupJJR and joint-venture collaborator Polshek and Partners led a team including Jones + Jones Architects and the Native Americans Ramona Sakiestewa and Donna House. Together, the partners established an architectural basis for the artistic vision, inspired by a water-sculpted rock formation.

Leadership is essential for joint ventures, and SmithgroupJJR brought several best practices in design and efficient construction. A steel-ribbed dome and adjustable concrete formwork eased the buildout. An HVAC system connected to a central plant on the Capitol Mall reduces operating costs. The contributions ensured this one-of-a-kind museum would be functional, flexible and durable.

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