Design Awards 2016: Best Cultural Draw – National Museum of African-American History and Culture

Wallpaper, February 2016

With its exterior walls now in place and glinting above the National Mall – the green swathe at the heart of Washington, DC – the National Museum of African-American History and Culture (NMAAHC), our Design Awards 2016 Best Cultural Draw, is most of the way through its four-year build. But the vision it fulfills is much older than that.

In 1915, black veterans of the US Civil War proposed building a national memorial to African-American achievement. The idea languished for decades, and attempts to revive it in the 1970s and 80s met with political opposition. Finally, in 2003, the US Congress authorised a museum dedicated to the African-American experience, and assigned it the last buildable site on the Mall, close to the Washington Monument.

A competition in 2009 narrowed the museum’s possible designers down to just one: the Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup, consisting of The Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates, Davis Brody Bond and SmithGroup.

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Photography by Stefan Ruiz