The design serves and celebrates the museum’s mission by granting primacy to the seascape on which it fronts, the landscapes that frame it, and the memorial for which it provides shelter.
The museum is housed in a one-story building volume measuring 82 feet wide, 394 feet long, and 23 feet high, raised 13 feet above the ground on a double row of cylindrical columns. The underside of the museum shelters a large open space that is the heart of the site’s collective memory.
On the eastern section of this outdoor space, oriented to the harbour and ocean beyond, a shallow reflecting pool signifies the edge of Gadsden’s Wharf as it was at the beginning of the nineteenth century, at the peak of the slave trade.
The materials reflect a careful contextual response to a highly charged historical site. On its north and south sides, the building is clad in a warm brick, while the east and west ends are enclosed in clear glass shaded by angled wooden louvers. The structure’s supporting columns are clad in an oystershell tabby, a material also used as paving in portions of the ground plane.
Photo credits: Pei Cobb Freed & Partners