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Black History Museum Design Unveiled

POSTED: April 15, 2009, 10:00 am

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A significant milestone was reached in the life of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) yesterday with the announcement of the architectural team that has been chosen to design the museum. The Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup was named as the firm selected after a rigorous juried design competition chaired by NMAAHC Director Dr. Lonnie Bunch, III. The permanent site of the museum will be on the National Mall in the nation’s capital, near the Washington Monument.

In announcing the selection of the Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup, Dr. Bunch said, “I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with this talented team. Their vision and spirit of collaboration moved all members of the design competition jury. I am confident that they will give us a building that will be an important addition to the National Mall and to the architecture of this city.” The Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group was one of 22 teams that responded to the Request for Qualifications in summer 2008.

The team selected by the Smithsonian for this historic project is actually a collaboration of four firms – The Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates, Davis Brody Bond and SmithGroup. The Freelon Group will be the architect of record and its principal, Phillip Freelon, FAIA, will serve as the design guarantor; the individual responsible for making sure the design reflects the values and priorities of the museum and the Smithsonian. Speaking on behalf of the Freelon Adjaye Bond team, Phillip Freelon said, “This is an incredible time for us as designers—and this museum represents a unique opportunity to give form and substance to the powerful vision that has been established by the Smithsonian leadership. We are truly honored to have been chosen as the architects from such a distinguished list of competitors.” The Freelon Group designed the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore.

David Adjaye will be the lead designer on the project. Mr. Adjaye designed the Nobel Peace Prize Centre in Oslo, Norway and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. Davis Brody Bond is involved in the planning, design and execution of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center site in New York City. The firm also led the restoration and expansion of New York’s main Public Library building. The SmithGroup is an international firm with offices in the nation’s capital. It designed the Normandy American Cemetery Interpretive Center in France.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a significant design and construction project that will take three years to complete. The project will cost $500 million and is scheduled to open in 2015. The NMAAHC will consult with the National Capital Planning Commission throughout the design phase and other federal agencies such as the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts and the National Park Service to ensure that the museum is in keeping with the aesthetics and standards of other federal buildings in the capital.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress. Although it does not have a building yet, the museum is collecting artifacts; conducting seminars and symposia, including a recent two-day program on Black Power; gathering African American oral histories for StoryCorps, a joint program with National Public Radio and the Library of Congress; and creating traveling exhibitions such as “Let Your Motto Be Resistance.” In addition, the museum has its own gallery in the National Museum of American History, which currently is exhibiting “The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise.”

The members of the Jury for the design competition were: Lonnie G. Bunch III (chair), director, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Mike Bellamy, P.E., director, Smithsonian’s Office of Engineering, Design and Construction, Robert Campbell, architecture critic, Boston Globe, Maurice Cox, director of design, National Endowment for the Arts, James A. Johnson, member of the museum’s council, vice chairman of Perseus LLC and former chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae, Robert Kogod, member of Smithsonian Board of Regents and chair of the board’s facilities committee and president of Charles E. Smith Management LLC, Sheryl Kolasinski, AIA, director, Smithsonian’s Office of Planning and Project Management, Franklin D. Raines, member of the museum’s council, former chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae and former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Linda Johnson Rice, co-chair of the museum’s council and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company Inc. (publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines), and Adèle Naudé Santos, dean of the School of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and principal architect for the San Francisco-based firm, Santos Prescott and Associates.

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