National Museum of the American Indian

A Showcase Building for Indian Arts, History & Culture
The National Museum of the American Indian, so carefully built by Clark Construction, sets a new benchmark in Smithsonian's growth. Your outstanding corporate leadership and top flight site management have resulted in world-class capital construction without compromise.
William W. Brubaker, PE, Director - Office of Facilities Engineering & Operations, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian Institution
260,000 Square Feet
Year Completed: 

Situated between the National Air & Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol on the National Mall, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian stands as a tribute to Native American history and culture. The winner of numerous industry awards, the museum's dynamic structure reflects the Native American community's values and houses exhibition space and a centerpiece venue for ceremonies and presentations.

The 260,000-square-foot, five-story structure reflects the relationship between humankind and the rest of nature, with references to the four cardinal directions and the four elements of the world (earth, air, water, and fire). The curvilinear building is clad in Kasota limestone that evokes natural rock formations of the southwest. The building’s special features — an entrance facing east toward the rising sun, a prism window, and a 120-foot-high entrance called the Potomac — were carefully designed in close consultation with the Native American community to reflect their culture.

Covering four acres, the grounds surrounding the National Museum of the American Indian are considered an extension of the building and are a vital part of the museum as a whole. They capture natural landscapes indigenous to the region, including wetlands, meadowlands, and a hardwood forest. The grounds also attempt to recapture the National Mall's original state. Clark planted 30,000 trees, shrubs and other plants, belonging to 150 species, to make this surrounding habitat an attraction in itself and part of a the visitor experience. 


One of the most complicated aspects of the museum was its concrete structure. The museum required six footprints, undulating perimeter walls with real boulders and constructed water features. Moreover, it is designed to resist seismic and wind loads, primarily by transferring loads to the shear walls of the stair and elevator cores placed throughout the building. Clark Concrete self-performed all of the concrete work within the 27-month schedule.

No two museum floors utilize the same geometric layout. There are more than 500 work points, each of which represent the center of a circle and can generate multiple radii. Within the building, there are over 1,000 curves and little repetition, which meant that Clark Concrete did not perform the same activities two days in a row.

ABC Metropolitan Washington - Award of Excellence, Concrete
ABC Metropolitan Washington - Excellence in Construction, Institutional $8 Million+
ABC Metropolitan Washington - Excellence in Construction, Mega Project
AGC Build America Award - New Building/New Construction
American Concrete Institute – Notable Project Award
ARCHI-TECH AV Award for the Lelawi Theater
Building Design and Construction Magazine - Platinum Building Team Award
Mid Atlantic Construction Magazine - Best Museum Project, Award of Merit
NAIOP Maryland/D.C. Chapter - Best Institutional Facility
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Architectural Millwork
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Electrical/Lighting Systems
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Electrical/Special Systems
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Finishes/Flooring (Star Award: Technical Excellence)
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Finishes/Plaster
WBC Craftsmanship Award - HVAC/Piping
WBC Craftsmanship Award - HVAC/Sheet Metal
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Masonry/Exterior Stone (Star award: Visual Excellence)
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Mechanical/HVAC
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Special Construction/Prism
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Masonry/Unit Masonry
WBC Craftsmanship Award - Special Construction/Thermal & Moisture