A Tanzanian-born architect has been selected to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The New York Times reports that the Smithsonian Institution chose David Adjaye as the lead architect for the museum, which is slated to open in 2015 on the National Mall in Washington. David’s team (including the Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond and SmithGroup) beat out five other competitors for the design job.
The museum, which was created by Congress in 2003, will be built near the Washington Monument, and it’s expected to cost $500 million.
Construction will begin after David and his team turn their design into a workable blueprint; that process should take about three years. Despite the fact that it doesn’t yet have a building, the museum has already started the collecting artifacts and hosting events, like seminars and a program on the Black Power movement.
David said that winning the commission is “the dream of [his] career.” That’s saying a lot because he’s designed the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. He’s also the architect behind fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s studio.
“Throughout the history of African-American struggle and celebration, there are these moments of praise,” David said at a news conference. “It’s for us a deeply spiritual and powerful culture.”
The London- based architect described the building as being a raised mound that’s topped by two-level structure which he called “celebration crown.” The inside of the museum will have an airy feel because the roof will be open to skylights.
There have been attempts to build a national museum of Black history since 1900, and those efforts continued to see great political opposition into the 90s. In 1994, North Carolina republican Jesse Helms blocked a bill authorizing such a museum because he didn’t feel that Congress should have had to foot the bill for it.
Then there were disputes about where the museum should be built. Some argued that placing it south of the National Mall would physically and psychologically expand its current boundaries. However the museum’s advisory council (including BET Founder Robert Johnson and Oprah) lobbied for the 15-acre plot across from the National Museum of American History.
“To have relegated this museum to another site,” Bob said in a 2006 interview, The Times reports, “when people are looking to it to answer everything from the need for an apology for slavery to reparations, would have been the ultimate dismissal.”
— Sonya Eskridge