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Architect on African American History Museum’s unique exterior

Architect Philip Freelon talks about how light affects the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened on Saturday on the National Mall. While other structures on the Mall are made of marble, granite or concrete, the museum’s unique design means it changes appearance depending on the time of day.

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  • PHILIP FREELON, ARCHITECT:

      This site is a very important site here in the nation’s capital, literally within the shadow of the Washington Monument.  Many of the buildings on the mall are marble, granite, concrete, lighter in color.  This building has a variation in how it appears.  So, on certain days, on certain lighting conditions, it can be very vibrant and bright.  And other times of the day or in the evening, it’s darker.

    So, we want to bring natural light into the public’s areas.  But at the same time, we want to shade heat gain and glare so the corona serves to function variegating the light of creating shade on the building.

    This building is the first LEED Gold certified museum on the Mall, and that’s important because we want this building not only to be here for 100 years-plus, but not to be a burden on the environment.

    This museum is for everyone, you know?  I want to be clear about that.  Our story, the story of African-Americans in this country is one that the director Lonnie Bunch often says is the quintessential American story, right?  There’s some struggle, but there’s also triumph.

    And so, we tell the truth and there are some difficult moments we all know about and they continue even forward and into 2016 and beyond.  So, it’s important to have those stories there, but there’s also the every day successes of people in this country, African-Americans and the contributions we made not only to this culture but worldwide.

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