National Museum of African American History and Culture

2009–2016 | Washington DC

Client The Smithsonian Institution
Architect Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup
Structural Engineer (Superstructure) Guy Nordenson and Associates
Structural Engineer (Substructure) Silman
Awards 2019 AIA Institute Honor Award; 2018 SEAoNY Excellence in Structural Engineering Award; 2018 AIA NY Best in Competition Award; 2017 AISC IDEASAward2017 Building Design + Construction Gold Building Team Award; 2017 NAIOP DC/MD, Award of Excellence - Best Institutional Facility, and Best of the Best Building; 2017 AIA North Carolina Merit Award, Institutional; 2017 AIA DC Excellence in Architecture Award; 2017 Beazley Designs of the Year, Architecture; 2017 Contract Magazine, Interiors Award, Civic/Public

This competition-winning design for a 400,000sf museum devoted to African American history and culture is a striking new addition to the National Mall. The museum’s primary architectural gesture is its three-tiered exterior Corona screen wall, which is suspended from the top of the building. The Corona forms a continuous atrium, free of structure between the façade and the inner gallery floors, allowing daylight to filter through its patterned bronze cladding and skylights.

The above-grade building structure is entirely supported on four composite steel-and-concrete cores, creating an open lobby space that highlights its curved, custom ceiling. The galleries and administrative level floor framing spans between and cantilevers from the cores through vertical steel trusses and long-span plate girders. The below-grade structure is cast-in-place concrete, except for above the History Galleries. Here, long-span steel framing supports areas at grade with significant landscaping and flood loads. At the southern entrance to the museum is a steel framed asymmetrical canopy, known as the “Porch,” spanning over 200ft and supported by only two piers.