Illuminating the Past
The choice of design for the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture may well be the highest-profile architectural decision that will be made in Washington for years to come. The five-acre plot, near the Washington Monument, is on the Mall, a civic landscape that should be considered absolutely closed to future development but can accommodate this one last, essential project — not because it is important to African Americans but because U.S. history cannot be told without it.
Located on the Constitution Avenue side of the Mall, the new museum will enjoy spectacular views of the Washington Monument and complete a line of first-rank cultural institutions that run from the successful I.M. Pei-designed National Gallery East Building to the desultory box of the National Museum of American History.