Design of the NMAAHC | Design
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Project Design Facts:


  • The design and construction of the 400,000 square foot museum is one of the largest and most complex building projects underway in the country, in large part because of the challenges of constructing 60% of the structure below ground within the DC tidal basin.


  • This will be the most sustainable national museum ever built, on track to achieve a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Sustainability design includes ground source heat pumps, rainwater harvesting, extensive daylighting and thermal zones within the building


  • The corona, the museum’s distinctive form, draws on familiar imagery from both African and American history. The three-tiered shape is inspired by the Yoruban Caryatid, a traditional wooden column which features a crown or corona at its top.


  • The bronze-colored corona panels draw inspiration from the ornate ironwork found in Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans. The design team studied this historic iron lattice work, in many cases created by enslaved Africans, and created the light-permeable façade of the museum by digitizing the traditional shapes and transposing them into a modern interpretation, scalable to the size and shape of the building.


  • Inside the building, the corona forms a perimeter zone that surrounds the primary galleries. Abundant daylight enters this zone through the patterned openings in the corona and through skylights. At night, the corona will glow from within, presenting stunning views of the museum from a variety of vantage points in and around the National Mall. The building form and materials are intended to express strength, faith, hope and resilience.


  • Smithsonian curators have located and stored more than 33,000 artifacts for the exhibits. The museum will showcase both the historic milestones of African American history and the everyday achievements of individuals who have contributed to shaping American culture.