Dezeen Magazine

David Adjaye's African American history museum nears completion in Washington DC

The final touches are being added to David Adjaye's museum of African American history, a project that "felt like a bloodbath at times" according to the British architect.

The almost-complete Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History And Culture (NMAAHC) has been captured by Instagram users ahead of its opening this autumn.

The building will house one of the most significant new museums in Washington DC, and is Adjaye's most high-profile project to date.

"Winning the project changed my career, and completing it has dominated my working life ever since," he said in an interview with GQ magazine.

"There were so many attacks on our design that it felt like a bloodbath at times," Adjaye continued. "But we ended up with a building that's got 90 per cent of what we wanted, which for architecture is pretty damn great."

A stack of three volumes forms the building's upper portion, covered in bronze plates perforated with patterns that reference the history of African American craftsmanship.

More than half of the museum is located below ground, stretching between Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive – close to the Washington Monument.

Adjaye won the competition to design the museum in 2009, as part of a team with American architects The Freelon Group and Davis Brody Bond – under the collaborative name Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup (FAB).

"This is the kind of project that comes around every half century for an architect, if you're lucky," he said.

He described the final pitch of the project, which he gave to the likes of media personality Oprah Winfrey and former US secretary of state Colin Powell, as "a baptism of fire".

"I had the whole canon of the African American community throwing questions at me like, 'Who are you? Why should you do this?' And I had to answer," he said.

A photo posted by @awayishome on

Adjaye was born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, and also spoke about racism in the architecture industry during the interview.

"It's never aggressive, but it is always there," he said. "But what's important to me is that I see more diversity in the built environment. The dream for me was always not to be the exception in this profession."

The architect's other projects in the US include the Sugar Hill housing complex in Harlem, New York, and plans for a red-concrete art museum in San Antonio, Texas.

The full interview with David Adjaye features in the September issue of British GQ, on sale from 4 August 2016. Main image is by Instagram user whitash_245.