In what’s likely the final piece of the ongoing American mosaic that is the National Mall , the Smithsonian has chosen six teams of architects to compete for the design of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture . The final winner will be announced in April. All teams have a minority principal and four firms are members of the National Organization of Minority Architects. The teams, with a few exceptions, follow a common formula: world famous top-shelf designers with nationally well-known minority-owned firms.
The teams are:
-- Moshe Safdie , FAIA, with Sultan Campbell Britt & Associates
Some of the collaborations are joint ventures, and others are more traditional design architect/architect of record arrangements. The museum is expected to be 300,000 to 350,000 square feet and will be located on a site just northeast of the Washington Monument. The final design will be LEED certified--the first such building on the National Mall. The federal government is paying for half of its $500 million price tag. The museum is slated to begin construction in 2012 and be complete 2015.
By offering a public competition stocked with experienced minority and African-American architects, it appears that the Smithsonian is carefully trying to avoid the cultural ownership controversies they and other organizations have dealt with in past projects, like the National Museum of the American Indian and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial statue.
But putting this building in the ground without a whiff of controversy seems fairly unlikely. Several of the “headlining” architects are British (minority or not), and the issue of who takes primary design credit is going to be especially sensitive. Presumably, these minority-owned firms have been included because of their design capabilities and cultural insights; not as blithely inclusionary marketing.
Many of the firms have extensive experience building in Washington and with the Smithsonian, (Foster + Partners, Pei Cobb Freed). David Adjaye, Hon. FAIA, just landed jobs designing two libraries in Washington.
All will be revealed in April when, according to the Associated Press, the Smithsonian will seek public comment for a museum design competition for the first time ever.