The British architect David Adjaye has won Design of the Year 2017 for his black history museum in Washington DC. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the second building to have ever received this title in the award’s ten year history, following Zaha Hadid’s 2014 win for the Heydar Aliyev centre in Azerbaijan.
The Museum is the work of four practices and is emotionally charged with the horrific treatment suffered by African Americans over the centuries. The visitors can experience the whole history of the struggle for racial equality, from leg irons, whipping posts, and slave auction blocks, to funk, soul, hip hop, and contemporary art.
David Adjaye is the most celebrated black architect in the world and was listen in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people. When designing the building, he drew inspiration from African motifs, the Yoruba sculpture from West Africa, and the decorative ironwork found on houses in Charleston and New Orleans, made by slave craftsmen.
“Not only is this a striking and already iconic structure at the heart of America’s capital, it’s the realisation of an entire century of planning, rejection, political opposition and finally collaborative execution,” said David Rowan, chair of the judging panel at London’s Design Museum.
The building builds on the 100 year campaign for a ‘National Negro Memorial’. The four firms that worked on the museum are headed by architects of predominantly African American heritage, which is a rarity in what is thought to be a white dominated profession. Phil Freelon was the lead architect, Zena Howard was the project leader responsible for the interior from the ground floor up, and J Max Bond worked on the interiors below the ground floor. The museum is a striking sight with a different character every time people look at it, shimmering in some lights and glowering in others.