New generations can understand their heritage in a meaningful and tangible way through the visual materials left by their ancestors. These materials should be easily accessible to everyone who visits the cultural mile. Therefore, the Museum of African History, Art and Design is planned to thoughtfully interact with the rest of campus. Visitors will walk through a culturally immersive experience starting at the Memorial Gateway.
The museum’s outdoor theater is designed to become a square where people can gather. A path lined with sculptures leads people from the square to the Memorial Gateway monument, providing an incredibly walkable and intuitively navigable experience.
The form of the museum follows the steps of the outdoor theater as it creates terraces to accommodate a horizontal circulation ramp also called an “experience path.” The experience path plays an important role as a knot between additional buildings and nature. The terraces also connect indoor galleries to outdoor spaces; a connection inspired by similar designs in African architecture. Seamlessly connecting indoor and outdoor spaces was a primary goal throughout the design process.
The orientation theaters are in the center of the museum. This central location is where visitors are first welcomed to learn about the origins of African heritage. This area would allow for a media center, exhibit, or any number of visual creative strategies that would provide an introduction to the beginnings of African heritage. The library and genealogy center are located upstairs in a more isolated setting to provide a calm, quiet environment for patrons.
Conversely, the galleries are more connected to the outside of the museum. This allows visitors to clearly see the Memorial Gateway, serving as a focal point of the design. The floor openings between galleries increase the visual connectivity between them.
The museum has diverse access points thanks to its entries from both the main floor and the platform floor. This allows visitors to access the upper floors faster and more directly. Providing multiple access points throughout the museum to other aspects of the layout was important to create a network of circulation. Knowing that this space will accommodate many people and host a vibrant array of activity, easy circulation and accessibility is a priority. The museum also includes additional amenities such as classrooms, a cafe, and a bookstore.
The low-pitch roof structure is designed to reference vernacular African structures. The columns around the cupolas are another example of where the design pulls inspiration from existing cultural heritage. Parking is provided underground and is shared by multiple sites.
The Museum of African History, Art, and Design celebrates a rich cultural history that is diverse, beautiful, and bold. Our proposed design is intended to champion that history not only through the historical artifacts on display but through the sensory experience of the building itself. Pillars of African history are evoked through the use of local African cultural materials, color and nature-respecting lines.
It is one thing to know history. It is another to experience it firsthand through your own senses. Africa has a rich material culture. It is energizing and inspiring to experience the diverse collection of tangible items for one’s self. This accessible, culturally dense museum will provide opportunities for visitors to connect with the African cultural heritage in a unique and inspiring way.
1st place at Africatown International Design Competition - Site 4 Africatown USA State Park
The Benin House Project.