Black History's Future

Grand plans unveiled for African American Museum on the Mall.

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The future National Museum of African American History and Culture -- as envisioned by competing teams of architects -- will most likely include water features and music halls, evocations of slave ships and the African past, and vistas acknowledging its important, monumental neighbors.

Yesterday, the Smithsonian Institution unveiled conceptual designs from six prominent architecture teams for what could be the last important building on the Mall. It was the first opportunity to see what the physical structure, scheduled to open in 2015, might look like. The models are on display at the Castle Building for public comment until April 6. The teams, which include "starchitects" such as I.M. Pei and Sir Norman Foster, were not present for yesterday's briefing.

A number of the proposals, presented as 3-D models and drawings, echoed aspects of other, familiar museums: the circular paths of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the wetlands and water movement of the National Museum of the American Indian, the open floor of the National Museum of American History and light that cascades into interior and underground spaces, as at the Pyramid at the Louvre. Materials included copper, wood, limestone and glass -- lots of glass, which would potentially reflect the historic and natural core around the new facility.