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

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.

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum established in December 2003. The museum’s building, designed by David Adjaye, is on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. It has close to 37,000 objects in its collection related to such subjects as community, family, the visual and performing arts, religion, civil rights, slavery, and segregation.

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. The museum opened September 24, 2016, in a ceremony led by U.S. President Barack Obama. (Wikipedia)