Architectural Design Philosophy



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Maryland Museum of African American History and Culture
Architectural Design Philosophy
The museum is first and foremost a facility representing the character, pride, struggle and accomplishments of Maryland’s African American people. To deliver it feasibly, it must be organized efficiently and logically with concern for value and cost effectiveness. At the same time, and equally important, it must be a “spirited” building able to make a strong, challenging and dynamic statement.
The physical facility should be “mined” with meaning and reference related to the seven agreed upon pervasive concepts put forth by the museum’s leadership:
Spirituality …………………..…Joy and Vibrancy

Resilience ……………………....The Power of Knowledge

Values and Principles…………..The Importance of Family

Cultural Continuity



During the course of a visitor’s experience, these principles should be “discovered”, reinforced and communicated throughout the architecture. The selection and application of color, texture and materials should thoughtfully reflect the museum’s role and its message. While efficiency will inform the building’s organization, boldness, tension and intervention will be portrayed in its form and image. The language of the building should be vocal, graphic, symbolic and representational.
Of its time, it should be a melding of message, media and identity. The on-going communication with the public should transcend architecture and should be controversial in its representation. The design solution should integrate meaning and message with bricks and mortar and should have a genuine aspect of “welcome”, opening itself up to the world.
As an urban museum it should be a responsive good neighbor. The museum should be a living statement, not a memorial, since the final chapters of the story of African Americans of Maryland have not yet been written. It should be as much about tomorrow….today and now, as it is about yesterday and then. It should embrace the monumental and the mundane.

Challenges to the design team………
How can the spirit of the African American be expressed in the architecture of the Museum? It must begin with a strong commitment to an emotional architectural response, based on a shared vision, or search, for the essence of the spirit of Maryland’s African American’s existence and traditions. The spirit of a people is complex and diverse not singular, not simplistic. The spirit is contradictory – not resolved.
There is both celebration and disappointment, flight and perseverance, joy and pain. It’s about the spirit of a people who continue to be loyal, generous builders of their adopted home country. It’s about overcoming odds, prevailing against hatred and bigotry and about making something out of near nothing.

January 2001 The design team…Freelon /RTKL joint Venture


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