David Adjaye – Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

As we attempt to navigate the injustice that has prevailed for too long, we’re thought one tiny contribution we could make would be to highlight a black architect of today and one of his designs – David Adjaye. We know it’s small, but it has to start somewhere.

Just over a year ago we visited Washington DC. One of the most notable buildings we photographed was the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The building is enveloped in an ornamental bronze lattice that is a historical reference to African American craftsmanship. And the density of the pattern can be modulated to control the amount of sunlight into the interior.

david adjaye, nmaahc

More than half of the museum is below ground with 5 stories above. One of the most impactful areas of the museum is the Contemplative Court. An underground room with a skylight at its center and a circular fountain of rain coming from the ceiling into a pool of water.

The surrounding walls are covered in Bendheim glass which has a beautiful caramel-bronze color.

david adjaye, nmaahc

On those four walls are the following quotes:

“I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom.” -Nelson Mandela

“We are determined. . . to work and fight until justice rains down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I ask no monument, proud and high to arrest the gaze of the passers-by; all that my yearning spirit craves is bury me not in a land of slaves.” -Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

“A change is gonna come.” -Sam Cooke


Even details of the staircase and the cafeteria ceiling are beautiful.

david adjaye, nmaahc david adjaye, nmaahc

A must-see if you visit DC.



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