Smithsonian National Museum of African American History Wins 2017 Design of the Year

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Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. / Adjaye Associates, The Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond, SmithGroupJJR for the Smithsonian Institution. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. / Adjaye Associates, The Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond, SmithGroupJJR for the Smithsonian Institution. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup’s Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. has been selected as the winner of the Beazley Design of the Year for 2017.

Presented by the Design Museum in London, the award is given to the project that best meets the criteria of design that “promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year.”

See more from the overall winner and each of the category winners, below.

In being named both overall winner and winner of the architecture category, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture outpaced impressive shortlisted projects from OMA, Zaha Hadid Architects,

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. / Adjaye Associates, The Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond, SmithGroupJJR for the Smithsonian Institution. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London
Rapid Liquid Printing / MIT Self-Assembly Lab. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London
Nike Pro Hijab / Nike. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London
 ‘Fractured Lands’, The New York Times Magazine, 14 August 2016 / The New York Times Magazine. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London
AIR-INK / Gravity Labs. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London
Scewo / Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London
more, as well as winners from five other categories: Digital, Fashion, Graphics, Product, and Transport.

'We couldn’t look any further than the Smithsonian for the overall award. It is a project of beautiful design, massive cultural impact, delivers an emotional experience and has a scale deserved of this major award,” said jury member Ozwald Boateng OBE. “You enter the building clouded in darkness and work your way through the displays and end bathed in light - this is a project that feels like a major turning point.’

Architecture and overall winner

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. / Adjaye Associates, The Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond, SmithGroupJJR for the Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. / Adjaye Associates, The Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond, SmithGroupJJR for the Smithsonian Institution. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. / Adjaye Associates, The Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond, SmithGroupJJR for the Smithsonian Institution. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London

The museum was inaugurated by President Obama in September 2016 and is a long-awaited symbol for the African American contribution to the nation’s history and identity. The museum houses galleries, administrative spaces, theatre space and collections storage space. Sir David Adjaye’s approach created a meaningful relationship to this unique site as well as a strong conceptual resonance with America’s longstanding African heritage. The 313,000-square-foot building comprises a three-tiered structure covered in bronze plates. Designed to shade the glazed facades behind, the filigree cladding is patterned to reference the history of African American craftsmanship.

Jury comments:

‘The judges had the tough challenge of selecting a project that both epitomised exciting and impactful design, and also capturing the spirit of the year,” said jury member David Rowan. “David Adjaye's Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington DC, did that beautifully: not only is this a striking and already iconic structure at the heart of America's capital, but it's the realisation of an entire century of planning, rejection, political opposition and finally collaborative execution. But the building, opened by Barack Obama in September 2016, is also a powerful reminder that design enables a diverse conversation and can challenge the dominant political discourse. We felt that, in the context of today's strident American debate on race and identity, Adjaye's achievement represented optimism.’

Digital category winner

Rapid Liquid Printing / MIT Self-Assembly Lab (Bjorn Sparrman, Kate Hajash, Shokofeh Darbari, Mattis Koh, Schendy Kernizan, Jared Laucks & Skylar Tibbits) in collaboration with Christophe Guberan, and Steelcase (Yuka Hiyoshi, Rob Poel, Markus McKenna, Paul Noll, Sharon Tracy, Edward Vander Bilt, Chris Norman & Charlie Forslund)

Rapid Liquid Printing / MIT Self-Assembly Lab. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London Rapid Liquid Printing / MIT Self-Assembly Lab. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London

Rapid Liquid printing (RLP) physically draws in 3D space within a gel suspension, and enables the creation of large scale, customized products made of real-world materials. 3D printing hasn’t taken off as a mainstream manufacturing process as it is too slow compared to conventional processes, is limited by scale and the materials are typically low-quality. RLP addresses these limitations: it is incredibly fast (producing structures in a matter of minutes), designed for large scale products (you can print an entire piece of furniture) and uses real-world, industrial-grade materials.

Fashion category winner

Nike Pro Hijab / Rachel Henry, Baron Brandt, Megan Saalfeld and Brogan Terrell for Nike

Nike Pro Hijab / Nike. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London Nike Pro Hijab / Nike. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London

Nike has worked alongside a team of athletes to develop a single-layer stretchy high-performance Hijab that could change the face of sport for Muslim women. Inspired by Sarah Attar’s win for Saudi Arabia at the 2012 Olympics, it was unveiled two days before International Women’s Day.

Graphics category winner

‘Fractured Lands’, The New York Times Magazine, 14 August 2016 / Jake Silverstein, Editor-in-Chief, Gail Bichler, Design Director, and Matt Willey, Art Director, for The New York Times Magazine

 ‘Fractured Lands’, The New York Times Magazine, 14 August 2016 / The New York Times Magazine. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London ‘Fractured Lands’, The New York Times Magazine, 14 August 2016 / The New York Times Magazine. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London

The Fractured Lands issue contained a single, very long (42 thousand word), nonfiction narrative by Scott Anderson and 20 photographs by Paolo Pellegrin. The product of some 18 months of reporting, it tells the story of the catastrophe that has fractured the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago, leading to the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis. The story gives the reader a visceral sense of how it all unfolded, through the eyes of six characters in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Product category winner

AIR-INK / Graviky Labs

AIR-INK / Gravity Labs. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London AIR-INK / Gravity Labs. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London

AIR-INK is the first commercially available ink made from air pollution. The clean-tech company has industrialized the process of capturing and recycling air pollution emissions into advanced pigments and inks.

Transport category winner

Scewo / Thomas Gemperle, Adrien Weber, Naomi Stieger, Stella Mühlhaus, Bernhard Winter, Pascal Buholzer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Scewo / Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London Scewo / Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Image Courtesy of The Design Museum in London

Scewo is a stairclimbing mobility device that will allow disabled persons to be more flexible and independently reach locations that were previously inaccessible. Scewo is a stairclimbing mobility device developed by a group of students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Using a retractable set of rubber tracks, the wheelchair can safely and smoothly travel both up and down stairs, while an extra pair of wheels at the rear of the chair allows users to raise the chair up so that they can engage with others at eye level.

In addition to the official award, visitors were asked to vote for their favorite design on the Design Museum website. The winner of the public vote was the Nike Pro Hijab.

'The first time I saw this project it stopped me in my tracks. It is a piece of design that tackles an important issue in a simple and elegant way. Perfectly delivered with inclusion at its core,’ commented jury member Amanda Levete.

The jury for the 2017 award included:
  • David Rowan (chair of the jury), Editor-at-large of WIRED’s UK edition
  • Ozwald Boateng OBE, fashion designer
  • Marcus Engman, Design Manager of IKEA Range and Supply.
  • Margaret Calvert OBE, typographer and graphic designer
  • Amanda Levete, Founder and Principal of AL_A
  • Professor Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer, JLR
  • Michael Tchao, VP Product Marketing at Apple Inc. 

All 56 shortlisted nominations will be on display at the Design Museum though February 18th.

News and project descriptions via Design Museum in London

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