Posted on April 15, 2009

Smithsonian Picks Black History Museum Designer

AP, April 14, 2009

A glowing bronze crown meant to evoke historical imagery of African-Americans emerged Tuesday as the winning architectural concept for a new black history museum on the National Mall.

A Smithsonian Institution jury selected the team Freelon Adjaye Bond, in association with SmithGroup, from six finalists in a design competition to build the National Museum of African American History and Culture.


The bronze, layered corona atop a stone base would be the defining element of the structure, which could be the last major building added to the expanse between the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument.


The crown concept, which would allow natural light to flow into the structure through bronze screens, was inspired by images from African and American history, Adjaye [David Adjaye, the lead designer] said, “this idea of uplifted praise sort of imagery.”

It evokes traditional headdresses worn by African-American women, as well as the colonial crown from Africa and the idea “that a hat-wearing person is a free person . . . who doesn’t have to carry a load but could wear a hat,” he said.

The bronze exterior would have a “dynamic and changing view,” depending on the sun’s angle and cloud cover. At night, it would glow with light emerging from its skin, the architects said.


The design process will take up to three years and is subject to approval from groups that oversee architecture in the nation’s capital. Construction is expected to begin in 2012, with an opening slated for 2015.

Congress has pledged to provide half of the museum’s $500 million cost, with private fundraising to cover the rest.

Museum Director Lonnie Bunch said he was looking for a building that would speak of the resiliency, optimism and spirituality of the African-American community.


Freelon [Philip G. Freelon, a North Carolina-based principal of the team] has designed prior black history projects, including Baltimore’s Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture.