CFA 20/SEP/12-1


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
New museum
Review Type
Previous Review


Dear Ms. Trowbridge:

In its meeting of 20 September, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the proposed final design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture at Constitution Avenue and 14th Street, NW. Expressing its appreciation for the careful development of the design, the Commission approved the final proposal with the exception of several components to be submitted for further review, and provided the following comments.

The Commission members emphasized that the treatment of the corona is the single most important element of the design; they recommended that great attention be given to determine the final detail, finish, and color of the corona panels to achieve the intended lacy and glimmering effect. They requested the opportunity to review a mockup of the panels to evaluate the appearance of alternative finishes as seen from a distance, the panel system as seen from inside the building, and the sculpting of the panels as an ensemble. Regarding the design of the egress court on the east side of the building, they suggested designing the wide runs of stairs to be less prominent in relation to the museum's main entrances; they also noted that the metal fins used as areaway guardrails present a new element in the vocabulary of the building and should be designed to minimize their visual impact.

The Commission members commented on the thoughtfulness of the landscape design intended to enhance the experience of the visitor; they suggested that the design ideas, often subtle and multi–layered, would merit explanatory information in order to increase understanding of these concepts. They requested that the pool and inscriptions at the south entrance be studied in a mockup to ensure that the quotations are legible under varying conditions of light and water. They also recommended that the locations identified for the installation of artwork throughout the site be provided with appropriate structural, electrical, and other technical support.

In addition to these comments for the refinement of the final design, the Commission requested presentations on the selection and details of all inscriptions, as well as the overall system of signage and wayfinding elements. In its conditional approval of the final design, the Commission delegated the final review of exterior elements such as perimeter security, flood control mechanisms, landscape details, ancillary structures, and lighting to the Commission staff. The Commission appreciates the great effort of all who have worked toward resolution of the final design of this prominent addition to the National Mall and looks forward to review of the remaining components. As always, the staff is available to assist in the completion of the final design review.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Ann Trowbridge, Associate Director for Planning
Office of Planning and Project Management
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012, MRC 511
Washington, DC 20013–7012

cc: Lonnie Bunch, National Museum of African American History and Culture
David Adjaye, Freelon Adjaye Bond | SmithGroup
Kathryn Gustafson, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol
Peter May, National Park Service