In June, London’s Tate Modern celebrated the opening of its Switch House extension, designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron. This fall sees another groundbreaking and eagerly anticipated opening: the David Adjaye-designed National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, DC. Here, the architect tells us why the project is so close to his heart, and we look at other cultural arrivals around the world.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington, DC, USA
In 1915, African American veterans from the Union Army formed a committee to build a memorial to African American achievements. One hundred and one years later, after much stopping and starting, the memorial is about to open: the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), a Smithsonian Institution museum that was created in 2003.
This fall it moves to its new permanent home, designed by British architect David Adjaye OBE. “Working with the Smithsonian has been a rite of passage. The SI is a cultural superpower and an extraordinary client,” he says. The new museum has taken seven years to complete since Adjaye’s design was selected, and he describes the project as “a dream commission. It is finally putting on the Mall, and recognizing, the contribution of the African American community to the definition of America. So the building very much takes its cues from that incredible history. But it’s also a space for discovery. It is a building that allows the American people to discover their history in a very direct way. Seeing American history through the lens of the African American community is going to surprise people.”
The NMAAHC is a building that allows the American people to discover their history in a very direct way
The building mimics a ziggurat in that it, in Adjaye’s words, “moves upward into the sky, rather than downward into the ground. And it hovers... the opaque parts look like they are being levitated above this light space, so you get the sense of an upward mobility.” He describes it as his “most significant commission to date,” adding: “The sacrifice of the African American people has made America better, and I hope that this building will communicate that.”
Adjaye is currently designing the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art in Riga – the first initiative of its kind since the country gained independence – to showcase visual culture from the Baltic Sea region from the 1960s to today. “The museum will contain a group of flexible spaces – smaller, chapel-like spaces for intimate works through to more expansive environments to facilitate larger installations,” says the architect. “The form resonates with traditional domestic Baltic architecture, like a simple wooden house, elevated to an institutional architecture.”
Los Angeles, California, USA
Home to some 2,000 works from their personal collection, The Broad contemporary art museum was founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, and opened to the public last fall. The creation of New York-based interdisciplinary design firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler as executive architect, the concept for the building has been described as “veil and vault.” A light-filtering “sheath” that wraps the whole building is the veil; the concrete core of the building – used for storage, curatorial spaces, and offices – is the vault. The three-story museum has gallery space on two floors, where visitors will find pieces by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and others. The Broad also houses Otium, a restaurant developed in partnership with Bill Chait of République and Bestia restaurants. Timothy Hollingsworth, former executive chef of The French Laundry in Napa Valley, is at the helm.
Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum
The largest private museum in China, Beijing’s Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum opened in 2015, and is the third institution to bear the Minsheng name (the others are both in Shanghai). Designed by Studio Pei-Zhu, the museum – housed in a former Panasonic electronics factory – comprises a series of exhibition spaces whose white walls are tempered by raw concrete floors and stairs. Architect Zhu Pei explains his thinking: “It is important for people to have a ‘walk-through’ experience in the spaces rather than the visual experience of just standing in front of the artworks.” The museum also features a sculpture park and rooftop exhibition space.
Opened in 1989 on London’s Shad Thames, in what was once a banana warehouse, the Design Museum was the brainchild of Sir Terence Conran and conceived as a showcase for product, graphic, industrial, architectural, and fashion design. In 2011, Conran donated £17.5 million ($23.1 million) to allow the museum to relocate to a larger home in west London – a Grade II* listed 1960s building, formerly the site of the Commonwealth Institute. When the Design Museum opens its doors in Kensington in November, it will offer a free permanent display of its Designer Maker User collection, which includes the first laptop by British designer Bill Moggridge, and Ettore Sottsass and Perry King’s Valentine typewriter for Olivetti. King of minimalism John Pawson has remodeled the interior in a project that has led to a threefold increase in the museum’s size.
Deyan Sudjic OBE, director of the Design Museum, is understandably excited about the move: “The new Design Museum in Kensington will enable us to become the most inspiring, exciting, and engaging museum dedicated to contemporary design and architecture in the world. Design asks questions about the world around us and the museum will have a program that encourages new ways of working and thinking, encouraging the next generation of design talent and communicating the importance of design in the everyday.”
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
The then Garage Center for Contemporary Culture opened in 2008 in what was once the Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage with an invitation-only ceremony featuring a performance by the late Amy Winehouse. The museum was created to house the private collections of Dasha Zhukova and Roman Abramovich. “Garage was founded with an international perspective, but now we are increasingly recognized as an internationally significant organization that not only presents, but also creates culture,” says Zhukova.
Garage is recognized as an organization that creates as well as presents culture
“What started as a project to provide a platform in Moscow for great contemporary art has evolved into the forward-thinking contemporary museum we are today.” The museum was renamed Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in 2014, and took up residence in its present location last summer. Garage’s new home, a modernist building remodeled by Rem Koolhaas, is now the perfect backdrop for works by the likes of Mark Rothko, Cindy Sherman, and Jeff Koons. The gallery’s name comes from Garage Magazine, which was also founded by Zhukova.