Filling the last prominent spot on the National Mall—just east of the Washington Monument—the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has already proven itself a striking addition to the tapestry of monumental architecture at the heart of the nation’s capital. Set to open September 24th, the exterior of the building is complete: 3,600 bronze-painted aluminum panels clad the museum’s three-tiered structure. The panels reference the intricate cast iron designs that African American slaves produced across the American South; the building’s “three-tiered crowns” were inspired by Yoruban art from West Africa, a region where many of the United State’s slaves were taken into bondage.

(Courtesy Darren Bradley)

(Courtesy Darren Bradley)

As an institution, the museum was established in 2003 and, in 2009, Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup was selected from a group of six invited teams to design the museum. Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup includes Durham, North Carolina-based Freelon Group, London and New York-based Adjaye Associates, New York-based Davis Brody Bond, and Detroit-based SmithGroupJJR. Ground broke on the museum in 2012. The building extends four stories underground; visitors can start at the lowest level to learn about the era of ”Slavery and Freedom,” advancing upwards to the “Era of Segregation,” “1968 and Beyond,” and finally a special exhibitions gallery, theater, and other programming. Notable artifacts range from Nat Turner’s Bible to Chuck Berry’s convertible and a former slave’s two story house built during the Reconstruction Era. Upper floors feature education facilities, staff offices, and multiple galleries.

Enjoy this first look at the NMAAHC’s exterior! The Architect’s Newspaper will continue to cover this project in the near future.

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