Design of the NMAAHC | The Design Team
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The Design Team


FAB team  FABS_Long  

The Freelon Group leads the design team and has contractual responsibility for delivering the project and overseeing it from start to finish. As Architect of Record, the Freelon Group manages a team of 32 consultants, ensuring the design adheres to the Smithsonian’s program and vision. The Freelon Group joined global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will in 2014.

Adjaye Associates leads the building design, working with the other three architectural partners to develop and refine the building to comply with the design intent and to meet the needs of the client and stakeholders.

Davis Brody Bond provides additional design depth for this complex project, drawing on their experience with large museums and other cultural projects. David Brody Bond is responsible for developing the below-grade areas of the museum.

SmithGroupJJR is responsible for the construction documentation of the exterior envelope including the below grade retaining wall and corona panel systems. SmithGroup JJR also leads the on-site construction phase services efforts.



The story of the design team behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) began shortly after the selection of the museum’s future site on the National Mall. In 2007, the Smithsonian selected Freelon Bond, a collaboration between prominent African American architects Phil Freelon of The Freelon Group and Max Bond of Davis Brody Bond, to lead the museum’s Phase 1 planning work. The Freelon Bond team delivered the 1200-page programming and pre-design document that became the basis for the design of the museum.

Following the successful completion of Phase I in 2008, the Museum Council sponsored an international design competition. Lonnie G. Bunch III, the Museum’s founding director, headed the competition selection committee. This nine-member group included notables in the design community such as Linda Johnson Rice, co-chair of the Museum Council and Chairman of Johnson Publishing Company Inc., Robert Kogod, member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents and president of Charles E. Smith Management LLC, Robert Campbell, architecture critic of the Boston Globe, and Adelle Santos, Dean of the MIT School of Architecture+Planning.

At that time, London-based architect Adjaye Associates (led by David Adjaye) and Washington D.C. based SmithGroup (led by Hal Davis) joined Freelon Bond (Following the death of Max Bond in 2009, Davis Brody Bond was led by Peter Cook and Rob Anderson). The resulting design team, Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup (FAB/S), was one of six finalists selected to present design proposals to the Smithsonian, ultimately winning the design competition in April of 2009.


Philip Freelon, FAIA
Lead Architect

Known for imaginative design and thoughtful collaboration, Phil Freelon practices architecture that engages the community and advances the social fabric. He leads the Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup team of architects working with The Smithsonian Institution on the design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Founder of The Freelon Group, Phil’s design achievements include cultural, civic and academic buildings produced for some of America’s most respected institutions. He is the design architect for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, the Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte, Emancipation Park in Houston, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore.

In 2014, Phil and his firm joined global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will. Phil is Managing Director and Design Director of the Perkins+Will North Carolina Practice in Research Triangle Park (RTP) and Charlotte, and a leader in the firm’s internationally-acclaimed Civic + Cultural Practice.

Phil is a recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, a presidential appointee to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) and a faculty member at MIT’s School of Architecture + Planning. He is a recipient of the AIA North Carolina’s Gold Medal, the association’s highest individual honor.

A native of Philadelphia, PA, Phil earned his Bachelor of Environmental Design degree in Architecture from North Carolina State University and his Master of Architecture degree from MIT. Phil also received a Loeb Fellowship and spent a year of independent study at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at North Carolina State University’s College of Design and has lectured at Harvard, MIT, the University of Maryland, Syracuse University, Auburn University, the University of Utah, the University of California – Berkeley, Kent State University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, among others.


David Adjaye OBE
Lead Designer

David Adjaye OBE is recognized as a leading architect of his generation. Adjaye was born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents and his influences range from contemporary art, music and science to African art forms and the civic life of cities. In 1994 he set up his first office, where his ingenious use ofmaterials and his sculptural ability established him as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision. He reformed his studio as Adjaye Associates in 2000 and immediately won several prestigious commissions. In Oslo he designed the Nobel Peace Centre in the shell of a disused railway station (completed in 2005). In London his design for the Whitechapel Idea Store pioneered a new approach to the provision of information services (2005). Later projects in London included the Stephen Lawrence Centre, with teaching and community spaces (2007), Rivington Place, an exhibition venue and resource centre (2007), and the Bernie Grant Centre for the performing arts (2007). Adjaye Associates’ largest completed project to date is the £160 million Moscow School of Management Skolkovo (2010).

Adjaye Associates now has four international offices, with projects throughout the world. These include a shopping and cultural complex in Beirut (ongoing), a concept store in Lagos (2014), a new headquarters building for the International Finance Corporation in Dakar (ongoing) and a hospital in Rwanda (ongoing).

Adjaye frequently collaborates with contemporary artists on art and installation projects. Examples include The Upper Room, with thirteen paintings by Chris Ofili (2002), Within Reach, a second installation with Ofili in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2003), and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art for the 21st Century Pavilion that was designed to show a projection work by Olafur Eliasson, Your Black Horizon, at the 2005 Venice Biennale. The Upper Room is now in the permanent collection of Tate Britain. Adjaye is now collaborating with Okwui Enwezor on the design of the forthcoming 56th Venice Art Biennale.

Adjaye has taught at the Royal College of Art, where he had previously studied, and at the Architectural Association School in London, and has held distinguished professorships at the universities of Pennsylvania, Yale and Princeton. He is currently the John C. Portman Design Critic in Architecture at Harvard. He was awarded the OBE for services to architecture in 2007, received the Design Miami/ Year of the Artist title in 2011, the Wall Street Journal Innovator Award in 2013 and the W.E.B. Du Bois medal from Harvard University.