National Museum of African American History and Culture

2009–2016 | Washington DC

Client The Smithsonian Institution
Architect Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup
Structural Engineer (Superstructure) Guy Nordenson and Associates
Structural Engineer (Substructure) Silman
Awards 2017 AISC IDEAS2 Award2017 Building Design + Construction Gold Building Team Award2017 AIA DC Excellence in Architecture Award

This competition-winning design for a 400,000sf museum devoted to African American history and culture is a striking new addition to the National Mall in Washington DC. The museum’s primary architectural gesture is its three-tiered exterior Corona screen wall, which is suspended from the top of the building. The Corona forms a continuous atrium, free of structure between the façade and the inner gallery floors, and allows daylight to filter through its patterned bronze cladding and skylights.

The above-grade building structure is entirely supported on four composite steel-and-concrete cores with no additional vertical load bearing structure at grade, creating an open lobby space which highlights its curved, custom ceiling. The galleries and administrative levels span between and cantilever from the cores through vertical steel trusses and long-span plate girders. The below-grade structure is primarily cast-in-place concrete except for the long-span steel framing supporting significant landscaping and flood loads at grade over the History Galleries.

At the southern entrance to the museum a canopy structure referred to as the “Porch”, is a steel-framed asymmetrical structure spanning over 200ft and supported by only two piers.