Washington DC, African American Museum, Zena Howard, KOLUMN Magazine, Kolumn Magazine

Meet Zena Howard, The Architect Behind D.C.’s African American Museum

Meet Zena Howard, The Architect Behind D.C.’s African American Museum

It wasn’t until Zena Howard saw The Brady Bunch that she knew what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. It was because of the family sitcom that, at the age of seven or eight, she discovered what an architect was. Before then, Howard had no idea what an architect was. When she spoke to family about her interest in creating spaces, she only heard about engineers.

But engineers focus, among other things, on systems, plumbing, lighting. When Howard enters a location, she asks herself, “How do people create the space that’s there? How do they understand the light and the effect and the feeling of the space?” It was because of questions like that that she knew engineering wasn’t for her.

When designing a building, Howard has no specific look or style, no trademark. Instead, what matters for her is letting ego go and creating what a client needs.

Sustainability is also a key factor in her design work. “[Sustainability] is huge. In light of the fact that buildings worldwide consume 60 percent of our energy sources, we, as architects have a huge [responsibility] to do something about the energy savings and energy goals in this country,” she said.

Sustainability has been so integrated in her design process that she can’t even remember the last time she worked on a building that wasn’t high performance or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) certified.

National Museum of African American History and Culture, NMAAHC, Museum Grand Opening, African American Art, African American History, KOLUMN Magazine, Kolumn
An exhibit on black feminism. Photograph: Jason Hornick

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum established in 2003. The museum’s building, designed by David Adjaye, is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. Early efforts to establish a federally owned museum featuring African American history and culture can be traced to 1915, although the modern push for such an organization did not begin until the 1970s.

After years of little success, a much more serious legislative push began in 1988 that led to authorization of the museum in 2003. A site was selected in 2006, and a museum design approved in 2009. President Barack Obama helped break ground for the building on February 22, 2012. First concrete was poured in November 2012, and construction will be complete in April 2016. Smithsonian officials have announced that the museum will open on September 24, 2016. WIKIPEDIA