One of the most anticipated museum openings in modern history has a significant Atlanta connection. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opens in Washington, D.C. tomorrow on Saturday, September 24, 2016, and Atlanta-based H.J. Russell & Company (Russell) played a significant role in its construction. Russell was selected as the construction management at-risk firm in the joint venture involving Russell, Clark Construction and Smoot Construction. According to the Smithsonian, the museum was one of the largest and most complex building projects in the country, in large part because of the challenges of constructing 60 percent of the structure below ground.
“It is an unbelievable honor for Russell to be a part of the construction team that helped build, from the ground up, a museum that further underscores the full history of the United States of America,” said Michael Russell, CEO, Russell. “Not only was being on the construction team a great business opportunity for our firm, it will forever be a source of pride for our organization, one of the first African-American construction firms in the country founded by our father, Herman J. Russell more than 60 years ago, during the era of institutional racial segregation.”
The museum broke ground in February 2012. The 400,000-square-foot Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-Gold certified designed building is situated on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument. It is located at the corner of 15th Street N.W. and Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., and includes exhibition galleries, an education center, theater, auditorium, café, store and offices.
Award-winning architect, David Adjaye, designed the museum’s structure. The Yoruban Caryatid, a traditional wooden column that features a crown or corona at its top, inspires the three-tiered shape. The pattern of the exterior panels evokes the look of ornate19th-century Ironwork created by enslaved craftsmen in New Orleans and allows daylight to enter through dappled openings.