CFA 16/JAN/14-2


National Museum of African American History and Culture
14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
United States

Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Spandrel panels, bollards, and south water feature
Review Type
Previous Review


Dear Dr. Bunch:

In its meeting of 16 January, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a submission from the Smithsonian Institution for several building and landscape elements of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, now under construction at Constitution Avenue and 14th Street, NW, which were not included in the previous conditional final approval for the project. The Commission approved the submission with the following comments.

For the design of the perimeter security elements in the museum's north yard, the Commission members commented that the proposed solution of modeled blocks of stone in lieu of bollards supports the conceptual promise of the landscape and amplifies the perception of the wall as a threshold for the museum. For the water feature at the south entrance, they supported the simplification of the design but raised questions about the scale, legibility, and graphic design of the quotations, and they recommended that the attribution line be treated in a proportionally similar way for both quotations. The Commission's approval action is conditional upon the submission of a full–size layout of the typography for delegated review by the staff.

Regarding the proposed enclosure system behind the openwork corona panels, the Commission members discussed the numerous enclosure types and how they will be perceived with the proposed exterior lighting and lighting from interior spaces. They commented that the complexity of facade elements–openwork panels of varying porosity, fritted and clear glass panels, metal spandrel panels, and clear framed "lenses" that project through the exterior latticework–creates conditions where the interaction with the proposed lighting is difficult to predict. They concluded that the design will be most successful if the patterns of the various elements do not create large shapes or figures, but instead contribute to a more variegated effect. They also raised concerns about potentially excessive and uncontrolled brightness of the areas that are not mediated by the corona panels, such as the lobby, the upper–level office floor, and the long opening on the west facade within the corona. In their approval of the design of these elements, they recommended that the lighting be studied and adjusted on the completed building to find the appropriate brightness and character to enhance the design.

The Commission looks forward to the review of the remaining elements of the design which have yet to be approved, including the finish of the openwork corona panels and various site elements, and the signage and wayfinding program for the museum site. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Dr. Lonnie Bunch, Director
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012, MRC 509
Washington, DC 20013–7012

cc: Ann Trowbridge, Smithsonian Institution
David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates
Phil Freelon, The Freelon Group
Kathryn Gustafson, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol