Tanzanian born architect David Adjaye, working under the lead of Freelon Group, has been chosen to design the upcoming National Museum of African-American History in Washington, D.C. The pick is something of a surprise, since no less an authority than The Washington Post was calling for a relatively wild, undulating design by Diller Scofidio+Renfro (one of six finalists in the competition).
Adjaye is working alonside with two firms. The Freelon Group will be project’s architect of record, and Davis Brody Bond will support design development, and the entire group calls itself Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup. The submission presents a canny mix of contemporary design that doesn’t go overboard. That’s important, since the museum could be the final one added to the increasingly packed National Mall.
The building itself is meant to evoke traditional woven African baskets, and its exterior is wrapped in diaphanous copper screens that subtly change colors in the sun as the day passes. Inside, the facade is echoed by clusters of wood, suspended from the ceiling. That attention to texture and light is a recurring theme for Adjaye, who based in London. He cut his teeth on houses–including the much-lauded Dirty House, which has a bunker like exterior was coated in black, anti-graffiti paint and in his Sunken House, which was wrapped in wood planks. He’s since gone on to win a number of institutional commissions, such as the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and two branch libraries in D.C. But this will be his largest work so far, with a budget of $500 million. Design development is expected to take three years, with groundbreaking to begin in 2012 and completion in 2015.
[Renderings by Imaging Atelier]