Exclusive: David Adjaye tells CLAD about his design for the 'monumental' National Museum of African American History and Culture

by Kim Megson | 03 Aug 2016
I could never remake this museum, or repeat it, because it’s so bound up in the particulars of its location, of its goals and of its place in history
– David Adjaye

Architect David Adjaye has told CLAD that the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington is “one of the defining projects” of his career to date.

The landmark museum – which has been developed over a decade – is due to be opened by US President Barack Obama on the 24 September 2016.

Adjaye’s practice Adjaye Associates worked with architecture studios Freelon Group and David Brody Bond Aedas on the project, under the collective name Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup.

In an exclusive interview for the new issue of CLADmag, Adjaye described how the “monumental project” will foster dialogue between different generations and social groupings; allowing “people of one culture to understand the experience of people from a different culture”.

“It is a specific story with a universal application,” he said. “It’s about African American history within the context of the American and global narrative. It’s an important story for everyone – and this has always been central to the design concept for the building.”

The 400,000sq ft (37,000sq m), nine storey museum is located on a five-acre site on Constitution Avenue. Dedicated to exploring the story of America through the lens of the African American experience, it will house exhibition galleries, an education centre, a 350-seat theatre and a memorial area.

The patterned bronze cladding of the building is derived from the architectural ironwork made by African American artisans in southern cities. The outer skin can be opaque at oblique angles and allows glimpses through to the interior at certain moments.

“It’s a building with many narratives – relating to the context, the history and the programme,” explained Adjaye. “It’s certainly a marriage of form with content. This narrative is articulated immediately by the silhouette – borrowing from the form of a Yoruba sculpture – while also resonating with the angle of the Washington Monument.

“In a way, I always conceived of this building as a kind of turning point – a knuckle, a joint – which articulates the two things, neither one nor the other, but bridging between the two. This can be understood as a metaphor for the less tangible bridge between cultures – ensuring that the African American story becomes a universal story. So from the sensitivity of the masterplan to the cultural discourse, I wanted to ensure that the building ends the mall properly and begins the monument.

“I could never remake this museum, or repeat it, because it’s so bound up in the particulars of its location, of its goals and of its place in history.”

Adjaye told CLAD that “as an inherently social endeavour”, architecture can not be properly judged a success of failure until people have had the opportunity to use the space.

He said: “I can’t wait to see the museum once it has opened, to see how people respond to the space and use it in ways I hadn’t anticipated. That’s when the project is finished for me; only then can I begin to comment on whether any of my goals have been realised.”

For more of David Adjaye’s thoughts on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, take a look at the brand new issue of CLADmag. This edition also features interviews with the founders of MVRDV, OMA’s David Gianotten, Pritzker winner Alejandro Aravena and the designers and developers behind FC Barcelona’s planned leisure and sports district Espai Barca.

National Museum of African American History and Culture  David Adjaye  Adjaye Associates  Washington D.C.  architecture  design 
Related stories

Video shows interiors of David Adjaye's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.

Opening date announced for National Museum of African American History and Culture

Oprah donates £7,6m to new African American museum

US$500m African American history museum to open in 2015

FEATURE: Interview – David Adjaye

Architect David Adjaye has told CLAD that the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington is “one of the defining projects” of his career to date. The landmark museum – which has been developed over a decade – is due to be opened by US President Barack Obama on the 24 September 2016. Adjaye’s practice Adjaye Associates worked with architecture studios Freelon Group and David Brody Bond
CLD,AAC,ARC,DES,PHR
David Adjaye has described the project as his biggest to date / Adjaye Associates
More news
News stories: 1 - 30 of 6915     
 
 
 
News stories: 1 - 30 of 6915     
 
 
 
company profile
Company profile: Barr + Wray Ltd
Founded in 1959, Barr + Wray is recognised as a world-leading provider of spa design, engineering, and pool and spa equipment.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
The Volcano at Dokk1 in Aarhus, Denmark
Ole Barslund Nielsen founded Monstrum in 2003 with Christian Jensen. The two met when working in theatre scenography
"Failing and falling can be a good thing"

How his background in theatre set design inspired Ole Barslund Nielsen to create playgrounds with a difference

Barack Obama has described the OPC as a gift to Chicago
Van Valkenburgh studied landscape architecture and fine arts at Cornell University and the University of Illinois
"Building a park is the ultimate act of democracy"

The US landscape architect on why the Obamas are his kind of clients

The restaurant at London’s iconic Lloyds Building
Jiricna moved to London for a placement in 1968. She was unable to return to the Czech Republic for two decades
"I look back now and think, how did I have the courage?"

The Czech-born architect on working with Richard Rogers, her friendship with Zaha Hadid and why she turned down Steve Jobs

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
The film is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda
"I fell in love with Zaha Hadid"

Black Panther set designer Hannah Beachler

OceanReef’s Nemo’s Garden underwater farming concept
"The Norwegian coast inhabits such beauty"

The world’s most ambitious underwater buildings

Community: David Polzin
David Polzin is executive director of design at CannonDesign. He studied at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture
"We were able to create an ‘acoustic shadow’ cutting decibel levels nearly in half"

How to design the perfect community leisure centre 100 13th century pilgrimage The Vietnamese village being created using historic methods

features
Daniela Colli
"The alternation of light and shadow is essential to give dynamism to a space"

Italian architect Daniela Colli tells us how she looked to classical art for inspiration on how to deal with light and shadow in her latest project

Callebaut interned with Odile Decq before setting up his practice
"It’s about tracing the evolution of thermal practices"

Eco architect Vincent Callebaut has won a competition to redesign ancient thermal baths in the Savoyard town of Aix-les-Bains, France

Profile: John Rhodes
John Rhodes
"It’s about the celebration of people coming together. If you can manage that well, a venue can become very special"

HOK has been tasked with designing a truly flexible arena for Valencia. John Rhodes is up for the challenge

featured supplier
Featured Supplier: Crown overhaul changing rooms at Saunton Sands spa
Saunton Sands Hotel in Devon, UK, has completed a £2m expansion of its spa and wellness facilities.
cladkit product news
Mater partners with Ditzel family to create eco-friendly furniture using reclaimed plastic
The furniture uses plastic from recycled fishing nets
Lauren Heath-Jones
Mater, an ethical design brand based in Denmark, has launched a furniture collection made from plastic reclaimed from the ocean. ...
Volvo partners with Reef Lab Designs to encourage ocean biodiversity
The tiles are made from marine-grade concrete and recycled plastic fibres
Lauren Heath-Jones
Car manufacturer Volvo has partnered with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and Reef Design Lab to create an environmentally-friendly ...
Alusid's Sequel collection combines craftsmanship and sustainability says founder
The Sequel collection is billed as the 'most waste-efficient and sustainable' on the market
Lauren Heath-Jones
Alusid, a creator of eco-friendly surfaces, has partnered with Parkside to launch the Sequel range, the brand's first collection of ...
cladkit product news
Tom Dixon Studio to relaunch iconic Pylon chair
Pylon was first designed more than 20 years ago
Lauren Heath-Jones
Originally conceived in his metal workshop in the early 90's, the Pylon chair was Dixon's attempt to create the world's ...
Water inspires Zaha Hadid Design x Rosenthal collaboration
The collection consists of three smaller collections: Weave, Strip and Lapp. Weave was inspired by 'the fluid lines of Zaha Hadid's sketching hand'
Lauren Heath-Jones
Zaha Hadid Design has partnered with porcelain manufacturer Rosenthal to create a new collection of vases. Called the Lapp collection, ...
BD Barcelona Design reveals Cristallo by the late Alessandro Mendini
Cristallo was the last design from acclaimed designer and architect Alessandro Mendini
Lauren Heath-Jones
Design Studio BD Barcelona Design has released Cristallo, a limited-edition cabinet designed by the late architect and designer Alessandro Mendini, ...
cladkit product news
Paul Kelley pushes 'technical boundaries' with modular furniture cube system
The system is designed to enable users to create multifunctional, adaptable pieces, where they are in complete control of the design and function of their furniture
Lauren Heath-Jones
British designer Paul Kelley has created a modular magnetic cube furniture system that enables users to create multifunctional, adaptable pieces, ...
Baux creates plant-based acoustic panels
Baux has worked with scientists from the Royal Institute of Technology to create Baux Acoustic Pulp, a plant-derived acoustic solution
Lauren Heath-Jones
Baux, an acoustic products brand based in Sweden, has developed a line of biodegradable acoustic panels, using a plant-based material ...
David Rockwell partners with Jim Thompson for dream-inspired fabric collection
Rockwell has designed 12 multi-use fabrics inspired by dreams with long-time collaborator Jim Thompson
Lauren Heath-Jones
Renowned architect David Rockwell has created a collection of fabrics with long-time collaborator Jim Thompson. Called Dreams, the collection was ...
x
Sign up with CLAD for regular news updates