CFA 19/NOV/09-1


National Museum of African American History and Culture
United States

Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Project progress update
Review Type
Information presentation
Previous Review


Dear Mr. Rombach:

The Commission of Fine Arts would like to express its appreciation for the information presentation at its meeting of 19 November on the winning competition entry for the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Commission offered its congratulations to the winning design team and looks forward to seeing the concept design alternatives that will be presented in spring 2010.

Acknowledging the sensitivity and complexity of the museum's site on the Washington Monument Grounds and the National Mall, the Commission members emphasized the need to study the design in relation to its context. In particular, they raised concerns about the impact of this new structure on both the iconic Washington Monument and the cohesive ensemble of monumental buildings lining the Mall. They recommended careful consideration of the impact of the porch's volume on the larger composition of the Mall and the transition into the wider landscape of the Washington Monument Grounds.

In considering the design of the building site, the Commission members commented that the initial concept for the landscape of the museum was unnecessarily complicated for the constricted area; an opportunity may exist in the vertical dimension to explore some of the themes for the landscape design. They advised further study of the access to and through the site, its particular relationship to the established Washington Monument Grounds landscape, and the character of the extensive water features.

Finally, the Commission members expressed their support for the exuberance and vitality of the competition design and look forward to development of a concept design in direct consultation with the Smithsonian Institution. In particular, they noted the importance of the material choices for the museum—in their symbolic as well as functional characteristics, and as they contribute to the dignity of the project as a whole. They also emphasized the importance of understanding the night-time character of the museum and its lighting in relationship to the context.

As always, the staff is available to assist you with future submissions.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA

Harry Rombach
Associate Director for Facilities Master Planning
Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations
Smithsonian Institution
PO Box 37012, MRC 511
Washington, DC 20013-7012

cc: David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates
Phil Freelon, The Freelon Group
Rodrigo Abela, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd.
Peter May, National Park Service