Essential Architecture- Washington D.C.

National Museum of the American Indian

architect

Douglas Cardinal (Blackfoot)

location

National Mall, Washington, D.C.

date

2004

style

Postmodern

construction

concrete, brick

type

museum

National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., viewed from the northeast



Interior view looking down toward the entrance.



National Museum of the American Indian seen from the North.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere; the museum was established in 1989 through an Act of Congress. Operating under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of the American Indian has three facilities: the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which opened on September 21, 2004; The George Gustav Heye Center, a permanent museum in New York City; and the Cultural Resources Center, a research and collections facility in Suitland, Maryland.

Locations

National Mall
The National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall opened in September 2004. 15 years in the making, it is the first national museum in the country dedicated exclusively to Native Americans. The five-story, 250,000-square-foot, curvilinear building is clad in a golden-colored Kasota limestone that is designed to evoke natural rock formations that have been shaped by wind and water over thousands of years. The museum is set in a 4.25-acre site and is surrounded by simulated wetlands. The museum’s east-facing entrance, its prism window and its 120-foot-high space for contemporary Native performances are direct results of extensive consultations with Native peoples. Similar to the Heye Center in Lower Manhattan, the museum offers a range of exhibitions, film and video screenings, school group programs, public programs and living culture presentations throughout the year.

The museum’s architect and project designer is the Canadian Douglas Cardinal (Blackfoot); its design architects are GBQC Architects of Philadelphia and architect Johnpaul Jones (Cherokee/Choctaw). Disagreements during construction led to Cardinal being removed from the project, but the building retains his original design intent, and his continued input enabled its completion.

The museum’s project architects are Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects Ltd. of Seattle and SmithGroup of Washington, D.C., in association with Lou Weller (Caddo), the Native American Design Collaborative, and Polshek Partnership Architects of New York City; Ramona Sakiestewa (Hopi) and Donna House (Navajo/Oneida) also served as design consultants. The landscape architects are Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects Ltd. of Seattle and EDAW Inc., of Alexandria, Virginia.



Museum viewed from United States Capitol dome.

In general, American Indians have filled the leadership roles in the design and operation of the museum and have aimed at creating a different atmosphere and experience from museums of European and Euro-American culture. Donna House, the Navajo and Oneida botanist who supervised the landscaping, has said, "The landscape flows into the building, and the environment is who we are. We are the trees, we are the rocks, we are the water. And that had to be part of the museum." This theme of organic flow is reflected by the interior of the museum, whose walls are mostly curving surfaces, with almost no sharp corners.

Although there seems to be qite a collection of Native American artifacts and culture, there seems to lack a signifant amount of historical artifacts - in that the museum focuses more on the current, rather than the past. This was found to be misleading in some cases. There also seemed to be more gift shops selling 'over-priced' products and there were no less than three of these shops located throghout the museum.



George Gustav Heye Center
The Museum’s George Gustav Heye Center occupies two floors of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in Lower Manhattan. The Beaux Arts-style building, designed by architect Cass Gilbert, was completed in 1907. It is a designated National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark. The center’s exhibition and public access areas total about 20,000- square feet. The Heye Center offers a range of exhibitions, film and video screenings, school group programs and living culture presentations throughout the year.

Cultural Resources Center
In Suitland, Maryland, the National Museum of the American Indian operates the Cultural Resources Center, an enormous, nautilus-shaped building which houses both the collection and photo archives.

Collection
The National Museum of the American Indian is home to the collection of the former Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. The collection includes more than 800,000 objects, as well as a photographic archive of 125,000 images. The collection, which became part of the Smithsonian in June 1990, was assembled throughout a 54-year period, beginning in 1903 by George Gustav Heye (1874-1957), who traveled throughout North and South America accumulating Native objects. Heye was the founder of New York’s Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation from its beginning until his death in 1957. The Heye Foundation’s Museum of the American Indian opened to the public in New York City in 1922.

The collection is not subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, but the museum has adopted procedures that are modeled on this act.[1]

Museum director
W. Richard West Jr., a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and a Peace Chief of the Southern Cheyenne, is founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Before becoming director of the National Museum of the American Indian in 1990, West was a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, and, subsequently, in the Indian-owned Albuquerque law firm of Gover, Stetson, Williams & West, P.C. He served as General Counsel and Special Counsel to numerous tribes and organizations.


links

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