National Museum of African American History and Culture

Martin Jacobs
The NMAAHC will promote the study and appreciation of African American history and culture and its impact on America, its people and the world. This unique building project is not without technical challenges: it is located at the end of the National Mall, adjacent to the Washington Monument.

The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture

Plans for the Smithsonian Institution's new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), in Washington, D.C., are underway after many years of discussion.

The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum complex, housing nineteen museums, nine research centers and the National Zoo. The NMAAHC's 313,000 ft2 building is located at the end of the National Mall, 800 feet from the Washington Monument and next to the National Museum of American History.

NMAAHC aims to promote the study and appreciation of African American history and culture and its impact on America, its people and the world. Permanent and temporary exhibits will document the history of African American life through the periods of slavery, reconstruction, the Harlem renaissance, the civil rights movement and others.

The global museum community increasingly uses virtual access and social networking alongside traditional facilities, to offer access to visitors of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities and locations. In the absence of a building, the NMAAHC has featured a virtual online museum, exhibits in other parts of the Smithsonian and an archive of 1,800 recorded oral history interviews.

Technical challenges

  • Building in this historic area
  • The shrinking availability of land on the Mall
  • The water table underneath the Mall
  • 50 ft setback ordered by the federal government after the 2001 terrorist attacks
  • Utility issues in an open space
  • Height of a structure within sight of the Washington Monument and the White House

With the site now assured - and with a budget of $500 million from a mix of federal government and private benefactor funds - the project is now in the design phase. Six award-winning architects competed to design the signature building. The Smithsonian selected a joint venture of four architect firms (link includes video): Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates, Davis Brody Bond Aedas and Smith Group.

Cost management

During the design competition Faithful+Gould was instrumental in setting the construction budget, providing cost estimating services for the winning team. We are now providing estimating, life cycle costing and cost advice during the design phase, which runs until early 2013. Construction of the museum is scheduled to be completed in 2015.