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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.105 Santiago ago. 2020 

Works & Projects

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Adjaye Associates


If the history of the African American community has been one of resistance (to slavery, discrimination or to racist violence), a museum about their history could not but to symbolize that condition. Located in front of the monument to George Washington (slaver who abolished slavery), the building’s color, shape and materials showcase a conscious resistance confronting the neoclassical white of the buildings in the capital of the United States.

Keywords: resistance; museum; landscape; race; project

Source: © Brad Feinknopf

Figure 1 

Source: © Alan Karchmer

Figure 2 

Located on Constitution Avenue, adjacent to the National Museum of American History and the Washington Monument, the National Museum

of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) houses exhibit galleries, administrative spaces, theatre space and collection storage space. The approach has been to establish both a meaningful relationship to this unique site as well as a strong conceptual resonance with America’s deep and longstanding African heritage. The design rests on three cornerstones: the ‘corona’ shape of the building; the extension of the building out into the landscape - the porch; and the bronze filigree envelope.

Figure 3 Planta emplazamiento 

Source: © Alan Karchmer

Figure 4 

Situated on the Washington Monument grounds, more than half of the museum is below ground with only five stories above surface. The corona is based on elements of the Washington Monument, closely matching the 17-degree angle of the capstone, while the panel size and pattern has been developed using the Monument stones as a reference. The entire building is wrapped in an ornamental bronze-coated aluminum lattice that is a historical reference to African American craftsmanship.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. As an extension of the building out into the landscape, the porch creates an outdoor room that bridges the gap between the interior and exterior.

Figure 5 Ground floor plan 

Figure 6 Section AA 

Figure 7 Upper floors plans 

At 50 meters 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 that is accessed from the fifth floor of the building.

Source: © Alan Karchmer

Figure 8 

Source: © Alan Karchmer

Figure 9 

Inside the building, visitors are 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-coated aluminum 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. Moving upwards, the views become pivotal as one circulates along the corona with unrivalled panoramas of the Mall, Federal Triangle buildings and Monument grounds.

Source: © Alan Karchmer

Figure 10 

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Architects: Adjaye Associates

Architect of record: Freelon Group

Contributors: Davis Brody Bond, SmithGroup JJR

Location: Constitution Avenue, Washington Dc

Client: Smithsonian Institution

Structural engineering: Guy Nordeson and Associates, Robert Silman Associates

Mechanical engineer: WSP Flack + Kurtz

Sustainability Consultant: Rocky Mountain Institute

Lighting consultants: Fisher Marantz Stone

Landscape: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

Multi-media and acoustics consultants: Shen Milson Wilke

Facade consultant: RA Heintges & Associates

Security consultants: ARUP North America

Site area: 420.000 ft2

Source: © Brad Feinknopf

Figure 11 

Creative Commons License Este es un artículo publicado en acceso abierto bajo una licencia Creative Commons