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Wednesday23 July 2014

First look: Adjaye Associates’ African American History & Culture museum

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The Smithsonian Institution’s new building has broken ground this week

Adjaye Associates’ Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC, is located on Constitution Avenue, adjacent to the National Museum of American History and the Washington Monument.

The 30,000sq m museum will house exhibition galleries, administrative spaces, a theatre and collections storage space.

The five-storey “corona” shaped structure — which features several more storeys below ground — is wrapped in an ornamental bronze lattice, in a historical reference to African American craftsmanship. The density of the pattern varies across the facade to modulate the amount of sunlight in and views out of the galleries.

The interiors feature vast column-free spaces.

Source: Adjaye Associates

The interiors feature vast column-free spaces.

The building is entered from the south, under a large cantilevered porch roof, angled to reflect the movement of water in a pool 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.

Inside the building, visitors will be guided on a journey characterised 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.

15th Street section

15th Street section

Below ground, the ambience is contemplative and monumental, achieved by the triple-height history gallery and symbolised by the memorial space, the “oculus”, which brings light diffused by a cascade of water into the space from the grounds of the Washington Monument.

The $500 million project, designed in collaboration with the Freelond Group and Davis Brody Bond, is scheduled for completion in 2015.

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Just needs a bit of BIM to move it from conceptual to reality. There are many old school designers who really need to go back to the design table - these days known as BIM.

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  • If Adjaye pulls it off at the construction stage as he usually does, this building will be magnificent; eveything about is seems to shout out African history. Is the concrete rather than earth walls a reference to the "American" part of the museum?

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  • What puzzles me about Adjaye is how the vibrancy of African architecture, brilliantly illustrated in his recent compendium of books (which are wonferful) is not reflected in his blansd, introverted, secretive architecture, such as the Stephen Lawrence Centre (a highly forbidding building that no young person would feel happy to enter) or this thing in Washington, which offers absolutely nothing to its surrounding context and seems to be mostly concerned with its own security. Open up, Mr. Adjaye !

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  • Hmm, I'm living in Africa at the moment and can attest to its architecture being visually more inspiring than this boring featureless lump of a building. I do like Adjaye but this is just terrible. Not to mention that the ornamented façade looks brutal hanging over the deck in the last image.
    And where are the typical African materials and textures they use so much here? Timber and glazed skin? Really?
    Long cantilevers to keep direct sunlight out, check. Perforated membrane to allow ventilation, check. Concrete surface for high thermal mass, check. Personality and contextuality, erm...

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  • i am against this repeated ornamental facade that made the exterior looks monotony and boring
    plus its not related to the African patterning or style!
    the building is so bulky

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