Thursday, December 03, 2009

National Museum of African American History and Culture Design Process Crawling Along


The design for the future National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall checked off its first of a series of reviews today, when the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) heard a presentation from the Smithsonian Institution and their chosen architect, Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup, about the plans for the building. Though commissioners praised the quality of the design, many expressed "serious concerns" about the current design's size and massing in relation to the Mall and the Washington Monument. The design process is scheduled to last approximately 3 years, with construction beginning in 2012.

The 5 acres of land near the Washington Monument have been the subject of vociferous debate first with the National Park Service opposing its use for anything but the grassy space that exists today, then with 22 designs competing for the site and now with sundry federal and local agencies reviewing the merits of the design that won out over five other semi-finalists this past April. Bounded by Constitution Avenue, Madison Drive, 14th and 15th Streets NW, the site would be the terminus of the Smithsonian museums on the Constitution side of the mall, leading up to the Washington Monument.

The current design is what the architect described as a pavilion, its base embracing the mound-like structure at the base of the neighboring "temple" buildings, which include the Museum of Natural History and the American History Museum. The building then opens inwards like a "front porch" to reflect a structure common in both traditional West African and southern African American cultures, according to the architect. The mass of the building is aligned with the Museum of Natural History and it is no higher than the American History Museum.

NCPC commissioners generally commented favorably on the concept, especially praising the interior design of the building. However, one after another, members expressed concern that the building would diminish the impressiveness of the Washington Monument because, as one commissioner put it, the design "failed" to maintain "the integrity of the mall." Other commissioners mentioned that part of the design process involved the architects providing three alternative design concepts, a process which would "improve the final project."

With the design far from finished, NCPC will hear from the team again in the spring of 2010.














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10 comments:

Eric on Dec 4, 2009, 12:50:00 AM said...

You're kidding. We can't get avant garde design on the Mall because it "'failed' to maintain "the integrity of the mall"? Are you kidding? Since when does the Mall have any sort of pattern when it comes to museums? From the National Gallery, to the Air & Space Museum, to the Hirshhorn, to the Natural History Museum to the American Indian Museum, none of the museums are the same or should ever, EVER look the same. This design, while not my favorite, does NOTHING to diminish the Mall or the Washington Monument. In fact, it enhances the Mall, helps to complete it, and provides an even better urban frame for it.

AJ said...

Where is the Hispanic Museum?? And what about the contribution of Fiji-Americans? How can they argue that America should view them not as a race but as Americans, then continue to demand to be labeled and patronized for their own 'special' place in our big American family. Get over it, we were all immigrants, many of us not by choice.

Anonymous said...

Designs like this never turn out as good as they look in the renderings. Just look at the Peace Center rising at the foot of Roosevelt Bridge -- looked ok in the renderings, but now looks like a prison with a glass roof that slid off in a strong wind. There is even more at stake here because of the prominence of the location. I don't understand why architects feel the need to re-invent architecture that worked for 1,000 years until the mid-20th century when every architect felt they need to re-invent the wheel. Let's face it, there are VERY FEW examples of modern architecture that have stood the test of time. Most look dated and many wind up being demolished because they failed to meet the needs of the people who have to use and experience the buildings.

Anonymous said...

STOP THIS NOW! There is ENOUGH on the Mall. Leave the few remaining grass parks ALONE!

Where are all the bellyaching libs who protested the WWII Memorial during the design phase? Are they now silent out of fear of being called a racist?

ANY building in this area will obstruct great views of the Washington Monument. So damn stupid that this is even moving forward.

DC said...

It is difficult to get a good picture of how this would impact the current layout of the mall.
I would like to see current design from an arial perspective taking in the entire mall.

b on Dec 8, 2009, 11:31:00 AM said...

This is a horrible idea, and I am African American.

Anonymous said...

The days of disagreeing with the "idea" of a National Museum of African American History & Culture ended when President Bush signed it into law in 2003......and I am also African American.

wylie coyote said...

I wonder how AJ feels about separating "American" history and "natural" history into two museums. Is American history thus unnatural? LOL.

wylie coyote said...

ps: "many of us not by choice" is not historically accurate. america is not a prison colony. coming to america to escape famine, religious intolerance or for other reasons still involves a choice in destination. enslaved africans had no choice but to come where slave ships were headed. fleeing europeans could have gone wherever they had ship fare to travel or an indentured servant position to hold, i.e. the caribbean, canada, etc. there is no significant historical example of a foreign government saying to a group of american nationals "we are forcing you to go to america, NOW, pack your bags". LOL.

wylie coyote said...

a group of european nationals, not american nationals.

 

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