6 Finalists Vie to Design Black History Museum

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday named six award-winning architecture teams that will compete to design its signature building on the Mall in the shadow of the Washington Monument.

The list includes luminaries of the field: I.M. Pei and Sir Norman Foster.

The final selection, based on a preliminary design, will be one of the most closely watched architectural contests in the city's recent history because of its location, the challenges of building in that historic area and the shrinking availability of land on the Mall. In addition, the architects were asked to demonstrate their own understanding and sensitivity to the African American experience, and many prominent supporters openly fought for a space on the Mall to emphasize the subject matter's importance...

The museum's site, selected by the Smithsonian Board of Regents, is a five-acre parcel on the southwest corner of Constitution Avenue and 14th Street NW that has never had a permanent building on it. It is 800 feet from the monument and will sit next to the National Museum of American History.

"You want a building that is respectful of the Washington Monument and reflects the resilience, optimism and spirituality" of black life in America, said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the African American History Museum's director. He added it also has to "work as a museum."

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