Designed by David Adjaye (in collaboration with Philip Freelon and Smithgroup) and completed in 2016.
The museum exhibits are divided into two general areas, contemporary culture and the history and vicissitudes of African Americans. The contemporary are displayed at the main volume — a glazed cube protected by the bronze architectural scrim that forms the ’corona’; the main volume visible from the National Mall. In contrast, the historical exhibits are gracefully displayed deep underground — not as if hiding them — but as a powerful remembrance of what — still to this day — lies buried deeply in American History.
The surrounding landscape was designed by Gustafson, Guthrie & Nichol of GGN. The grounds not only becomes a plinth where the museum rests but also creates a solemn space to reflect on what was viewed inside.
Designed in 1967 by architect Louis I. Kahn and finished in 1972 in collaboration with landscape architects Harriet Pattison and George Patton; and structural engineer August Komendant.
The museum can be accessed through either the lawn and the beautiful mass of yaupon hollies trees out in the entrance courtyard or the rear parking lot (to the East) one story below the main floor.
Either way you enter, the spatial sequence of the building is magnificently clearly laid out.
The museum is comprised of 16 parallel halls covered by 20 feet wide by 100 feet long post-tensioned reinforced concrete shells (or vaults). Each thin vault is supported by four reinforced concrete columns which can be visible throughout the building.
Entrance courtyard with yaupon hollies and opened porches that overlook the water pools.
Main vestibule looking towards the northern courtyard and main stairs connecting to the Eastern vestibule.
The interior curving shells have light slots that allows for natural light to enter the galleries. Stainless steel reflectors bounce the natural light difuminating it throughout the curving vaults illuminating the gallery interiors with a soft well-distributed natural light.
This is a follow up on our trip to Italy and France last summer where we got the chance to visit the cultural complex at Firminy-Vert. Here are a few quick sketches made on site; a few trying to capture the feeling of the interior space.
Follow up on a previous post from October 9, 2011.