The new African American History Museum prepares to break ground

On Feb. 22 the new National Museum of African American History and Culture will break ground on the Mall, in the proximity of the Washington Monument. This museum, approved by Congress in 2003, is the culmination of efforts started by black Civil War veterans.

The building

The most distinctive feature of the building will be an inverse truncated pyramid called the Corona. This structure will be covered with bronze-coated panels held by a mesh of trusses. The design of the panels is inspired by the African American-made ironwork grilles
from Charleston and New Orleans.

South Plaza and water feature
The south entry is composed of the Porch, a central water feature and a sloped lawn and hedge area that forms the edge of the Madison Street sidewalk. Overlaid onto this entry will be inscriptions that establish a stronger connection to the content of the museum. While the exact content and layout of these inscriptions still needs to be worked out, the design of the water feature has been modified to incorporate them into the basin.

coated panel

3.5 ft

5.7 ft



Location and size

The museum will be built on the East-West axis of the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History.

Mostly underground
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open in late
2015, has been designed as a seven-level
structure that has more of its 374,000 sq feet buried underground. The new gallery is expected to draw 3 to 3.5 million visitors each year.

Nat’l Museum of African American History

Nat’l Museum of American History

Nat’l Museum of Natural History

Nat’l Gallery of Art West Bldg.

Nat’l Gallery of Art East Bldg.

Freer Sackler Gallery

Smithsonian Castle

Hirshhorn Museum

Nat’l Air and Space Museum

Nat’l Mus.of the American Indian

Washington Monument

National Museum of African American History and Culture

portion of the building

555 ft

125 ft

Elevation from Madison Drive

Aboveground 148,316 sq ft

Belowground 225,483 sq ft

SOURCE: Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group, National Museum of African American History. GRAPHIC: Alberto Cuadra and Todd Lindeman - The Washington Post. Published Feb. 18, 2012.