We have been covering the progress of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture over the last several months, our most recent being President Obama’s speech at the ceremony for the official ground breaking. Adjaye Associates recently shared with us some insight into the inspiration for the design and its grounding principles. We also have several new perspective renders illustrating the internal experience. More details after the break.
Lead designer David Adjaye set out to establish a unique connection with both the site and its natural surroundings as well as create a compelling conceptual resonance within America’s deep and longstanding African heritage. The basis of the design is firmly rooted in a trifecta that binds and informs the overall design; a “corona” shape that forms the solid portion of the building, a “porch” extension of the building that merges into the surrounding landscape, and a bronze filigree that wraps around the structure.
Adjaye Associates describes in detail the location and elements that begin to inform the overall experience; “Situated on the Washington Monument grounds the museum maintains a subtle profile in the landscape – more than half is below ground – with five stories 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 The entire building is wrapped in an ornamental bronze lattice that is a historical reference to African American craftsmanship.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 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 unrivalled panoramas of the Mall, Federal Triangle buildings and Monument Grounds.”
The museum is expected to open in 2015 and cost approximently $500 million.
Lead Designer: David Adjaye
Design Team: Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group
Client: Smithsonian Institution
Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson and Associates, Robert Silman Associates
Mechanical Engineer: WSP Flack + Kurtz