2017 IALD Award Winners:
Award of Merit
Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture
by Fisher Marantz Stone

Luminaries of the lighting profession gathered at the Crystal Tea Room on 10 May to honor the winners of the 34th Annual International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) International Lighting Design Awards. Twenty-two projects from eight countries were on display – including interiors, monuments, façades, museums, and a residence. This year’s winners represent some of the most innovative and inspiring work found anywhere in the world of architectural lighting design.

The façade of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, DC USA, with lighting design by Fisher Marantz Stone, took home an Award of Merit, accepted in person by Charles Stone, FIALD.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest Smithsonian museum, occupying the last building site on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The building is wrapped in 3,600 bronze-finish decorative panels that form a corona, inspired by the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art. As the only non-white building on the Mall, it was decided early on that the building needed to be lit for a suitable nighttime presence. The challenge was to develop a design that captured the dignity of the building and its prominent location – while being responsible to the budget and environment.

The ground floor of the museum has a continuous glass curtainwall, but the vast majority of the building is completely covered in dark metallic panels. This continuous array of panels meant any scheme needed to cover nearly an acre of area. Initial designs relied on light that would “leak” from the overlaps in the corona tiers, so the lighting design team’s job became one of intervention, allowing the building mass to appear more lively, transparent and less tomb like.

The building skin consists of a sandwich, with glass panels forming the outer envelope of the building. Designers wanted to illuminate the glass to silhouette the patterned metal. Adding a minimal frit of small dark dots to the glass curtainwall have a negligible effect on views looking out from the building, and provide a sufficiently lightable surface to reveal the basketweave nature of the metal panels.

At the top of each tier, designers identified a common location to place fixtures, allowing a consistent downward aiming angle and eliminating light pollution. At the time of specification, LED had not yet evolved to drop in price, dictating T5 fluorescent fixtures.

To satisfy various conservation and historical requirements for Washington’s Monumental Core District, the fully lighted building needed to blend with other buildings on the Mall and not compete with the Washington Monument. Designers tuned the brightness accordingly throughout a series of mockups and surveys. The final lighted result renders the building façade as a porous screen, allowing one to appreciate the life and activity within.



Hank Forrest, IALD
Carla Ross Allen
Charles G. Stone II, FIALD
Fisher Marantz Stone


Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup

© Alan Karchmer, Smithsonian Institution
© Hank Forrest, FMS

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