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nmai cultural resource center


smithsonian institute


hillcrest heights, md




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The unique design of the Cultural Resources Center was conceived and executed with the direct involvement of Native communities. The architectural program and design for the building were the result of numerous consultations and collaborations with NMAI staff, design professionals, and a cross-section of Native peoples from throughout the Western Hemisphere and Hawai'i. The architectural program, The Way of the People, was developed by a team of consultants led by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. The architectural design was developed by the Polshek Partnership of New York, Tobey + Davis of Virginia, and the Native American Design Collaborative (Edmondson Group's team), a consortium of Native design professionals and cultural consultants. Construction of the CRC, begun in summer 1996 and completed in fall 1998, was funded by both public and private support.The architecture of the CRC reflects numerous Native American cultural and design principles. The design inspires respect for the collections the building holds and the cultures it represents, and at the same time, creates a welcoming atmosphere. The CRC's design also represents a Native approach to architecture and landscape that emphasizes a connection to the environment. Carefully placed windows and skylights introduce natural light, and an orientation on the four cardinal directions is reinforced throughout the building, beginning with the east-facing entry. An organic, curving roof and radial walls suggest spiral forms commonly found in nature—nautilus shell, spider web, pine cone, butterfly wing. Inside and outside the building, forms, materials, and colors are inspired by the surrounding environment. Native grasses and indigenous shrubs and trees are incorporated throughout the CRC site, creating a natural and unstructured landscape.NMAI's Cultural Resources Center won a Year 2000 Construction Award from Buildings Magazine in the category of New Public/Government Construction.

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