National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture


The landscape design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture integrates the museum into the larger composition of the National Mall, thereby creating a link to a broader American story and establishing the site as integral to the narrative of the museum.

Drawing the open, pastoral nature of the Washington Monument grounds through the museum site, the design creates important connections to the surrounding, historic context including the adjacent Washington Memorial and the White House. The two entries into the site are marked by a gently curving plinth of highly polished stone and an entry fountain of moving and still water. Juxtaposing the permanence and weight of stone with the ephemeral qualities of moving and reflective water, these thresholds symbolically link past, present, and future to reinforce the incredible location of the site as a critical context for the museum itself. 

After crossing these symbolic thresholds of stone and water, broad sweeping paths draw visitors in through a landscape that is both continuous and sequential, layered with trees native to the Southeast. Live Oaks, Magnolias, and American Beeches are part of a diverse planting palette chosen and composed to reinforce the broad themes of the museum: resiliency, spirituality, hope, and optimism. The site is designed to encourage visitors to extend the museum experience outside, and to linger and reflect on the important narratives being told within.


Location: Washington, DC
Size: 5 acres
Client: The Smithsonian Institution
Completion Date: 2016


Freelon, Adjaye Associates, Davis Brody Bond,
Smithgroup, Architects
GGN, Landscape Architect
Robert Silman Associates and Guy Nordenson & Associates, Structural Engineers
Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, Civil Engineer
WSP Flack & Kurtz, MEP FP Engineer
CMS, Fountain Engineer


Design – Construction Administration


Targeting LEED Gold


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