Design of the NMAAHC | News
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Keep up with recent news on the
National Museum of African American History
and Culture as it nears completion

Culture Type:
Sneak Peak: Smithsonian Curators Preview New African American Museum February 20, 2016
A CENTURY IN THE MAKING, when the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opens on Sept. 24, nearly the entire fourth floor will be devoted to visual art. Exhibitions throughout the rest of the museum will examine in depth the experiences of African Americans, stories central to the American narrative explored through the lens of history, community and culture with objects and artifacts. The art galleries—part of the cultural component—are designed to be a unique space, essentially serving as an art museum within the cultural history museum, where work by African American artists including Felrath Hines, Jacob Lawrence, Charles White, and Kara Walker, will be presented.

Smithsonian’s African American History Museum Will Open September 24 February 2, 2016
The National Museum of African American History and Culture will open September 24, four-and-a-half years after it broke ground on the Mall, the Smithsonian Institution announced Tuesday. The new museum, which will be the Smithsonian’s first major expansion in more than a decade, will kick off with a week-long festival including concerts, dance performances, film screenings, and other events.

DC Curbed:
One-Year Countdown Begins for African American Museum November 17, 2015

The one-year countdown has now begun to the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). To celebrate the achievement of opening by next fall after over six years of planning the museum, the NMAAHC hosted musical performances, poem readings, and speeches from Mayor Muriel Bowser, Congressional Delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Museum Director Lonnie Bunch III this past Monday. The event, dubbed “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom,” also celebrated the 150 year anniversary of the end of slavery, the 150 year anniversary of the end of the Civil War, and the 50 year anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. To top it all off, the southern and western exteriors of the building facing Madison Drive NW and facing 15th Street NW will be illuminated with a seven-minute projection of historic images related to slavery, abolition and Reconstruction, the Civil War, and the civil rights era.

Hard Hat Tour with Phil Freelon, FAIA October 28, 2015

Construction is nearing completion on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, designed by Freelon Adjaye Bond/ SmithGroup. During a hard hat tour of the museum on the National Mall, Phil Freelon, FAIA, and the Smithsonian’s Judson McIntire, AIA, explain the inspiration behind the unique building’s design, the challenges working with Washington, D.C.’s landscape, and how the museum is quintessentially American. The museum is scheduled to open September 2016.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture Hosts Debut Event. November 17, 2015


‘ “On Monday, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, or NMAAHC, held its first official event. Designed by Freelon Adjaye Bond/ SmithGroup, the museum won’t open until next fall, but museum officials and local politicians took the long-awaited opportunity to celebrate the construction of the museum nearing completion across the street from the Washington Monument.

Monday’s event kicked off a three-night run of “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom,” a seven-minute projection mapping and audio presentation honoring the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th Amendment, both 150 years ago in 1865, as well as the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act 50 years ago.

The NMAAHC façade is the canvas for this presentation. “[The building’s] distinctive corona that you see behind me is comprised of a filagree that was inspired by the enslaved craftspeople who created all that wonderful ironwork in Charleston and in New Orleans,” Bunch said on Monday. Phil Freelon, FAIA, the founder of the Freelon Group, explained to ARCHITECT during a recent hard-hat tour that this façade, inspired by southern ironwork, is constructed of cast aluminum coated in a bronze-colored finish. At one point in the presentation, zoomed-in images of this façade pattern are projected onto the building itself. “The media against the building was really a way to animate the story,” Freelon said to ARCHITECT following Monday’s presentation.’


Watch a video of the ceremony here (The projection mapping begins at the 58-minute mark.)

New York Times: Projection Kicks Off Countdown to Black History and Culture Museum Opening. November 17, 2015

“Construction of the $540 million museum, designed by the team of Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup, began in 2012. Its director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, said the museum is planning exhibitions that will help show not only the history of blacks in America, but also how those events help inform the issues cropping up on colleges and in towns across the country today.

‘It’s important to realize that this museum is as much about today and tomorrow as it is about yesterday,’ he said.”

NBC News Interview: Meet Phil Freelon, the Architect Behind The Newest Smithsonian October 2, 2015

“A President Obama appointee to the National Commission of Fine Arts, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) and a recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, the proud Philly native who now calls Durham, North Carolina home, also happens to be African American.

Now a Managing Director and Design Director with global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will, Freelon is currently leading the design team for the $500 million (yes, million) Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.”

Washington Post: Philip Freelon, lead architect of the Smithsonian’s African American Museum February 18, 2012

“The museum’s design is the result of an intense collaboration among Freelon and two other architects: David Adjaye and the late Max Bond. They came together in 2008 as Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup to compete for the design. They would prevail over 21 other star-studded teams jampacked with names such as Richard Meier, I.M. Pei and Norman Foster.

Freelon, now the museum’s architect of record, specializes in designing spaces that weave together the nation’s history, fabric and culture.”

Huffington Post: Smithsonian’s National Museum Of African American History Installs Two Large Artifacts. November 18, 2013

“Museum officials on Sunday were overseeing the installation of a segregated Southern Railway train car made by the Pullman Company in 1922. The passenger car was modified to have segregated seating to comply with Jim Crow laws at the time.

The other large piece being installed is a prison tower from Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Curators had been looking for items to illustrate the incarceration of black people in the 20th century and the practice’s links to slavery.

Both pieces are being lowered into the museum construction site by cranes. They’re too large to install once the museum building is complete in 2015.”

CBS 60 Minutes: A Monumental Project 

“A Monumental Project” aired on May 17, 2015, and was rebroadcast August 16, 2015.

Interview with Museum Director Lonnie Bunch.
“America will have a place that allows them to remember, to remember, how much we as a country have been improved, changed, challenged, and made better by the African-American experience.”