National Museum of the American Indian

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Role and Duration:

From 1993 to 1998 our firm was retained as the Prime Design Architect, although our primary role was in fact multifaceted: first to unite the Native peoples of the Americas, to give them a voice, understand their wisdom, elicit a vision to their ideas of a Native Museum with respect to the programming, treatment of artefacts, exhibits and displays as well as the overall design. The next step was to bring this vision to life, developed through a consensus of Native Elders and representatives, in a design that expressed the cultural values of all, while satisfying programmatic concerns, security, curatorial needs, as well as the local context on the mall in the Nation’s Capital. Furthermore, we were to ensure that the design process addressed the Client’s needs and secured unanimous approval by the final design authority of the mall, the Fine Arts Commission.

Relevance:

 This project is the United States of America’s foremost National Museum specifically designed to celebrate Native Americans; it is intended to usher in a new attitude of reconciliation and forgiveness. The National Museum of the American Indian occupies one of the most prestigious sites in America, directly in front of the U.S. Capitol on the last available site of the National Mall. As such this project was under tremendous scrutiny from the many stakeholders, not the least of which would be the U.S. Government and Native Americans from all regions of the country. Our firm’s unique curvilinear expression of Native values was used to create an architecture design that, conceptually, was at once respectful and reminiscent of the nation’s history, the land and her peoples, and at the same time a building of a dignified majesty with deference for the great buildings in its immediate vicinity.

Building Activity