The new National Museum of African American History and Culture will rest on the Washington Monument grounds, joining the ranks of historic monuments and buildings that have graced our National Mall for decades. The museum will maintain a subtle profile in the landscape with more than half the building below ground, supporting five levels of program above.
Lead designer David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates set out to create a compelling conceptual resonance within America's deep and longstanding African heritage while also connecting with both the site and its natural surroundings. The basis of the design is firmly rooted in a trifecta that binds and informs the overall design. The building is configured in a corona shape that forms the solid potion of the building adopting the 17-degree angle of the capstone of its neighboring Washington Monument, paired with an extending porch that merges into the surrounding landscape. The entire building is wrapped in an ornamental lattice that is a historical reference to African American craftsmanship. The density of the pattern is modulated to control the amount of sunlight and transparency filtering into the interior.
Inside, visitors will be guided on a historical and emotional journey, characterized by vast, column free spaces, a dramatic infusion of light and a diverse material palette comprising pre-cast concrete, timber and a glazed skin that sits within the bronze lattice. Below ground, the ambience is contemplative and monumental, achieved by the triple height history gallery and symbolized by the memorial space, bringing light diffused by a cascade of water into the contemplative space from the grounds above. The museum is expected to open in 2015 costing approximately $500 million.