Obama speaks at the ground breaking ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group

President Obama attended the official ground breaking ceremony of the National Museum for African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) on February 22, commemorating this milestone for the Institution’s new museum on Washington’s National Mall. The Tanzanian-born, London-based architect serves as Lead Designer for the Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup (FAB) team that was selected by the Smithsonian Institute back in 2009 in the international competition for the design of the nation’s new prestigious building.

The President began his brief remarks by stating, “As others have mentioned, this day has been a long time coming. The idea for a museum dedicated to African Americans was first put forward by black veterans of the Civil War. And years later, the call was picked up by members of the civil rights generation -– by men and women who knew how to fight for what was right and strive for what is just. This is their day. This is your day. It’s an honor to be here to see the fruit of your labor.”

Continue reading for more information on the project and a video of President Obama’s speech.

The design deeply roots itself to the unique site and embodies a strong conceptual resonance with America’s deep and longstanding African heritage. Situated on Washington Monument grounds, it maintains a subtle profile within the landscape with more than half the 313,000 square foot building below ground and five stories above. It will house exhibit galleries, administration spaces, a theatre space and collections storage space for the NMAAHC.

David Adjaye said, “The museum is located on a monumental site and it is truly a monumental project that has been nearly 200 years in the making. We always conceived of this building as a kind of turning point, a knuckle, a joint, which articulates a sensitivity to the original Beaux Arts masterplan as well as an enduring expression of monumentality. That’s the critical issue that we’ve been very concerned about, making sure the museum is not just another building on the mall, but a building that ends the mall properly and begins the monument.”

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the extension of the building out into the landscape – the porch; and the bronze filigree envelope that serves as a historical reference to African American craftsmanship.

Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group

Inside the building, visitors will be guided on a historical and emotional journey, characterized 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 ambience 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.

The museum will be open in 2015 and cost approximately $500 million.

Lead Designer: David Adjaye
Design Team: Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group
Client: Smithsonian Institution
Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson and AssociatesRobert Silman Associates
Mechanical Engineer: WSP Flack + Kurtz

Via Adjaye Associates

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Obama speaks at the ground breaking ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture" 24 Feb 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 31 Jul 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=211387>

3 comments

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    I am honored that some of my papers on Civil Rights Remembrance Day has been accepted at the [NMAAHC] I hope others will consider donating to this great History! rosa Bogar

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    I am happy that the Civil War was mention,because I have for years trying to bring about attention to a marker in my community that ia related to slavery and the Civil War. This community is still all African American Community. We played on this marker that has the date 1861 on it. This marker is located across the street where my grandmother lived. We did not know the importance of this marker to our country’s history.I often wondered if homes should have beeen built on this land!! This marker is one to yet be reckoned with Thanks, Rosa Bogar

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    President Obama was in Minneapolis,most recently, I hope he received the gift from my son and daughter-inlaw which I took to the “Bacherlor Farmer” where he had lunch.I hope the “Obama Ladies” liked the t shirts. “Oya” I support my son’s dreams and endeavors. Thank you President Obama for your visit to Minneapolis, Minnesota

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