Smithsonian Selects Six Architectural Firms to Participate in Design Competition for New Museum

January 29, 2009
News Release

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The Smithsonian has announced the selection of six firms who will participate in a two-month design competition that will determine which one firm is asked to submit a formal proposal for the design of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum is scheduled to be constructed on a five-acre plot of land on Constitution Avenue between the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The firms were among 22 that responded to a Request for Qualifications issued last summer. An evaluation panel of experts from the Smithsonian, including engineers, architects and museum professionals conducted a technical review of all submissions to be certain that they met the qualifications of the RFQ—having key personnel in a variety of areas such as architecture, structural engineering, landscape architecture and life safety engineering; being able to accomplish the design of the building within the three-year time frame; establishing an office within 30 miles of the museum site; and demonstrating an appreciation of African American history and culture.

In addition, the architectural firm will be expected to design an energy-efficient structure so that it can become the Smithsonian’s first museum to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the first officially green building on the National Mall.

All six firms have won national and international awards; three are winners of the American Institute of Architect’s Gold Medal—the AIA’s highest honor for design—and two have been awarded Pritzker Prizes. All teams have a minority principal and four firms are members of the National Organization of Minority Architects.

The design competition teams (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Devrouax & Purnell Architects/Planners, P.C, and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects, LLP—a joint venture. Devrouax & Purnell, led by Marshall Purnell, recently completed the Washington Convention Center and the Washington Nationals Park baseball stadium. Among the best known projects of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners are the East Building of the National Gallery of Art and the Holocaust Memorial Museum, both in Washington, D.C., and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with KlingStubbins—Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio and Charles Renfro will serve as architect and KlingStubbins will serve as associate architect. Diller Scofidio + Renfro was the architect for the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and for the renovation and expansion of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, including the Juilliard School and the School of American Ballet.
  • Foster + Partners/URS joint venture—these two firms have collaborated for the past five years on a variety of projects in the United States and Europe. Foster + Partners of London, led by chairman and founder Norman Foster, will serve as architect and URS will be the engineering design firm. Foster recently designed the Kogod Courtyard in the Smithsonian’s Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, redesigned the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Dallas Center for Performing Arts.
  • Freelon Adjaye Bond in association with SmithGroup—Three firms have joined together for this project—the Freelon Group, Adjaye Associates and Davis Brody Bond. The Freelon Group designed the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore. David Adjaye was the architect of the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. The SmithGroup designed the Normandy American Cemetery Interpretive Center in France.
  •  Moody Nolan Inc. in association with Antoine Predock Architect PC—Moody Nolan, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, will be the architect of record. The Moody Nolan and Predock team designed the Ohio State University Recreation and Physical Activity Center in Columbus, Ohio. Architect Antoine Predock of Albuquerque, New Mexico, designed the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and the expansion of the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington and the National Palace Museum in Taiwan. Curtis J. Moody and Antoine Predock will be the lead designers.
  • Moshe Safdie and Associates Inc. in association with Sultan Campbell Britt & Associates—Moshe Safdie will be the lead architect. He has designed the U.S. Institute of Peace headquarters now under construction in Washington, D.C.; the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts; and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

All six firms will send representatives to the Smithsonian Jan. 30 to participate in a design competition all-day orientation session during which the project will be described in more detail, and participants will receive information about the programmatic needs of the museum. Two months later, they will submit design concepts that may include models, schematics, renderings or other representations of the architects’ vision for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The design submissions will be on public display in the Smithsonian Castle later in the spring.

“I am delighted to have reached this watershed moment in the history of this museum and pleased with the skill and the passion these six firms bring to this endeavor,” said Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of American History and Culture. “There’s no doubt that one of these firms will emerge to craft a building that is worthy of the Smithsonian and worthy of the richness and complexity of African American history.”

Don Stastny, principal of StastnyBrun Architects Inc. of Portland, Ore., will serve as design competition adviser to the Smithsonian, facilitating the jury meetings and providing management support to the design competition process.

A design competition board, or jury, will select one architectural firm that will be asked to respond to a formal Request for Proposal. Jury members are:

  • Lonnie G. Bunch III (chair), director, National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Robert Kogod, member of Smithsonian Board of Regents and chair of the board’s facilities committee and president of Charles E. Smith Management LLC
  • Maurice Cox, director of design, National Endowment for the Arts
  • Robert Campbell, architecture critic, Boston Globe
  • Adèle Naudé Santos, dean of the School of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and principal architect for the San Francisco-based firm, Santos Prescott and Associates
  • James A Johnson, member of the museum’s council, vice chairman of Perseus LLC and former chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae
  • Richard D. Parsons, co-chair of the museum’s council, former chair of Time Warner Inc.
  • Franklin D. Raines, council member, former chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae and former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget
  • Linda Johnson Rice, co-chair of the museum’s council and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company Inc. (publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines)
  • Mike Bellamy, P.E., director, Smithsonian’s Office of Engineering, Design and Construction
  • Sheryl Kolasinski, AIA, director, Smithsonian’s Office of Planning and Project Management

Total project cost for designing, constructing and installing exhibitions in the new museum is estimated at about $500 million, of which one-half will be provided by Congress. The Smithsonian will raise the remainder. Construction of the building, which will be about the same size as the National Museum of the American Indian, is expected to begin in 2012 and open to the public in 2015.

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