- About Us
- Get Involved
Six finalists were chosen for the NMAAHC building design competition.
"At its best, architecture is the physical manifestation of a culture's highest ideals. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)—the institution and the building—embodies the African American spirit. Majestic yet exuberant. Dignified yet triumphant. Of the African Diaspora yet distinctly African American. The NMAAHC will be a building worthy of the museum’s vision—and its prominent place on the National Mall."
Please note that the image below represents the original submission from Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup. The design has since been modified and newer renderings can be viewed on the Building Philosophy page.
"Our team began by discussing the importance of this project to our nation and the unique opportunity it affords to give voice in architecture to the African American experience. Equality, Journey, Change and Permanence are four words that resonated. Equality defined the objective. The Journey is what we celebrate. Change is what was necessary. And Permanence must be embodied in the outcome. These ideas inspired and informed our search."
"The NMAAHC will sit on a historically charged site … both the somber history of African American slave labor and spectacular, pivotal democratic events such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and the Inauguration of the first bi-racial president. The painful struggles and glorious achievements of African American history and culture must be embodied through the inextricable bond of building and site. Rather than passively sitting on the ground, the new building emerges from the ground as if its seeds were always planted but not yet germinated."
"It is essential that this project is approached from the outside in and the inside out. Namely that the new building must succeed in its context and its function, but above all, as a symbolic response to such an important subject … This museum explores and elucidates the impact on the nation of the complex history and rich culture of African Americans. It reminds us of what we were and the challenges we still face, and guides us toward what we can become. The museum is designed to be a place of meaning, a journey of memory and of reflection, a haven of music and laughter and a beacon of hope."
"The living atmosphere of our proposal absorbs and illuminates the teachings, struggles and triumphs of African American culture, which then become lessons—inextricably connected to each visitor. The atmosphere…highlights the culture's circuitous, yet persistent movement towards brighter futures, and translates the trajectory of pitfalls and accomplishments that define African American culture. Our proposal offers a resounding celebratory means of navigating the building that synthesizes the African American experience of ascendance with the visitor's path of travel."
"Two separate thoughts—one about urban design, the other about the museum's organization, merged into a singular concept for the project. The first insight … was to reduce the mass of the building … placing over one third of the program below street level. This minimal footprint was bisected by two view corridors. The primary one on the axis of the Washington Monument … We felt that the building above ground should be kept simple and austere, focusing its expressive power on the entry and primarily on the Memorial Pavilion, which we set forward into the landscape, in its scale harmonious with the other memorials on the National Mall."