Commission for Fine Arts Approves NMAI Design

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On June 17, 1999, the Smithsonian presented its second proposed architectural design for the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall. The Smithsonian had worked with architects from the Polshek Partnership, Tobey & Davis, and four other design firms with Native Americans as principals to revise their design which the Commission for Fine Arts rejected in April. They decided that the overhanging entrance could stand without a large pillar and returned it to the cantilever design that Native American architect Douglas Cardinal had originally proposed. At this meeting the landscaping plan was also presented. The plan was that 30% of the site would be forested, 30% would be wetland with cattails, and some of the remaining land would be used to raise crops. Secretary of the Smithsonian, Ira Michael Heyman said that building the museum was now going to cost more than the $110 million that had been expected. At this point the museum was scheduled to open in 2002.


  • Cardinal, Douglas
  • Heyman, Ira Michael 5/30/1930-11/19/2011
  • United States Commission of Fine Arts
  • National Museum of the American Indian (U.S.)
  • Polshek Partnership
  • Tobey & Davis


Chronology of Smithsonian History


Molotsy, Irvin. "Federal Panel Approves Indian Museum on Mall." New York Times. June 18, 1999.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


June 17, 1999


  • Design
  • Museum buildings
  • Landscape architecture
  • Architecture
  • Historians
  • New Museums
  • Budget
  • Building
  • Indians of North America
  • Architecture--Design and plans


Washington (D.C.)

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