National Museum of African American History and Culture Wins Steel Design Award

April 17, 2017

(Chicago, IL) – The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., has earned national recognition in the 2017 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2). In honor of this achievement, members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a ceremony to take place at the museum on Thursday, April 20, at 8:30 a.m.

“Innovative use of structural steel framing provides many layers of material texture and light, and helps to create a monumental structure worthy of its prominent home on the National Mall,” commented David G. Allen, space and facilities manager with the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and the owner juror in the competition.

Located on Washington’s National Mall in the shadow of the Washington Monument, the museum, which opened this past fall, features an inverse truncated pyramid, known as the corona, covered by bronze coated panels and supported by a network of steel trusses. To keep the five-level, 409,000-sq.-ft structure from obstructing views of the Washington Monument and to maintain the sight lines along the mall, 60% of the museum is below ground, going as deep as 70 ft. In addition, the overall height of the building (90 ft above ground) was reduced to align with key elements of the Commerce Building to the north.

The project’s team members include:

  • Owner: Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • General Contractor: Clark/Smoot/Russell A Joint Venture, Bethesda, Md. (entered project in the competition)
  • Architects: Adjaye Associates, London; SmithGroupJJR, Washington, D.C.; Perkins + Will, Durham, N.C.
  • Structural Engineers: Silman, New York; Guy Nordenson and Associates, New York
  • Steel Fabricators: SteelFab, Inc., Charlotte, N.C. (AISC member / AISC certified); Alpha Steel, Inc., McKinney, Texas (AISC member)
  • Steel Erector: Bosworth Steel Erectors, Dallas (AISC member / AISC certified)
  • Detailer: Prodraft, Inc., Chesapeake, Va. (AISC member)
  • Bender-Roller: WhiteFab, Inc., Birmingham, Ala. (AISC member)

The 13 IDEAS2 winners for 2017 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received from architectural and engineering and other project team member firms throughout the U.S. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 award dates back more than 50 years with AISC. And about this year’s winning museum, Charlie Carter, president of AISC, said, “We are impressed with the entire NMAAHC project team. In Washington, D.C., so often the mind goes directly to other materials. This group saw the value and possibilities and took the initiative to create a better solution in steel. The designers had the vision and the construction team delivered a beautiful reality.”

Members of the media may request high-resolution images of the project by contacting AISC’s Tasha Weiss at 312.670.5439 or For more information about the IDEAS2 awards and to view all of this year’s winners, please visit

Photo by Smithsonian Institution - Michael Barnes


For more information contact:

Dani Friedland
Marketing Communications Strategist

American Institute of Steel Construction

The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a non-partisan, not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC's mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, market development, and advocacy. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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