African American History museum crowned Design of the Year 2017

An architectural project hailed by an expert design judge as “major turning point” in the history of American race-relations has scooped top prize at this year’s Beazley Designs of the Year for 2017.

Comprised of three, bronze-plated stacks referencing the decorative ironwork made by slave craftsmen for houses in Charleston and New Orleans, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was completed in Washington DC in 2016. It is the brainchild of Sir David Adjaye and Adjaye Associates in collaboration with three US firms. A British-Ghanaian architect, Sir David recently won a competition to design a new Holocaust memorial and education centre in London.

The Beazley Designs of the Year competition is organised by London’s Design Museum and is celebrating its 10th year. A panel of expert judges deliberate on over 60 design projects from across the globe spanning six categories (architecture, digital, fashion, graphics, product and transport). Together with the overall winner, a winning project is selected from each category in recognition of its outstanding contribution to design.

This year’s panellists were awed by Adjaye’s architectural vision as well as the bold political statement represented by the project. “Not only is this a striking and already iconic structure… but it’s the realisation of an entire century of planning, rejection, political opposition and finally collaborative execution”, chair of the judging panel and Wired editor-at-large, David Rowan, explained. “In the context of today’s strident American debate on race and identity, Adjaye’s achievement represented optimism”, Rowan added.

It has been a long road towards completing the NMAAHC. Originating from a campaign to erect a National Negro Memorial in Washington, the project has been continually blocked by Congress for 100 years. Finally, the four architectural firms behind the NMAAHC, led by architects from mostly African American backgrounds, succeeded in pushing their idea through and building a museum, which seeks to tell ‘the American Story Through the African American Lens’.

Judges Ozwald Boateng (fashion designer), Marcus Engman (IKEA design manager), Margaret Calvert (graphic designer), Amanda Levete (architect), Gerry McGovern (JLR chief design officer) and Michael Tchao (Apple vice president of product marketing) also selected the following winners:

Beazley Graphic Design of the Year – ‘Fractured Lands’, New York Times Magazine
Beazley Product Design of the Year – AIR-INK
Beazley Fashion Design of the Year – Nike Pro Hijab
Beazley Transport Design of the Year – Scewo


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