National Museum of African American History and Culture

Dear Ms. Trowbridge:

In its meeting of 20 June, the Commission of Fine Arts reported on the inspection of a mockup for the corona panels on the site of the National Museum of African American History and Culture at 15th Street and Madison Drive, NW, on the afternoon of 19 June.

In their discussion of the inspection, the Commission members observed that the corona is the single most important element of the entire project which establishes the iconic identity of the museum; they noted that the original design intent for the corona material was to be bronze to create a shimmering, lustrous effect under many lighting conditions. Thus, they expressed their strong disappointment with the two mockup panels presented, characterizing the Kynar finishes as putty–like, muddy, and dull—falling far short of the beautiful poetic intention promised by the concept design. Instead, they recommended the consideration of other finishes, such as an applied and burnished coating containing actual bronze as was shown to the staff and other consulting parties last December, to achieve the magical quality that is critical to the success of the project. Finally, they expressed their frustration with being presented with only two panels that they considered too small to be effective in conveying the proposed visual character, and they suggested that a baseline mockup of real bronze be presented in order to compare the proposed substitute finish with the original material intended.

In conclusion, the Commission requested a diligent search for alternatives and advised that this review provides the Smithsonian the opportunity yet to achieve the quality that this important national museum deserves. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.


/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
Peter May, National Park Service