The Smithsonian National Museum
of African American History & Culture
Washington, DC


The team of Freelon Adjaye Bond (The Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates, and Davis Brody Bond, in association with SmithGroup), was selected from an international field of architects to design the new National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Washington Mall. Prior to the competition, Davis Brody Bond developed pre-design and programming documents for the museum in association with Freelon. The museum was opened in a special ceremony by President Barack Obama in September 2016.

The museum is located on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History. This will be the only national museum devoted to documenting African-American life, art, history, and culture with collections covering slavery and freedom, military engagement and reconstruction, segregation and civil rights, and cultural expressions of all forms.

As part of its design process, the building’s massing was refined to reduce the above-grade bulk placing two thirds of the building’s 400,000sf program below grade. The stacking of the building placed much of the non-daylit spaces 80ft below, including the centerpiece of the museum, the 50,000sf main history gallery. The museum’s bottom to top gallery relationship provides visitors a chronological experience of past, present, and future as one ascends through the structure. Veiled by the exterior Corona, above grade circulation is placed within a seven story atrium to promote views of Washington DC monuments while contextually anchoring the museum within the greenspace of the National Mall.