June 14, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

The_Dome_and_Sun.jpgThis isn’t a museum review, nor am I offering an architectural criticism of a building, which from the outside I really don’t like. However, my visit today to the Museum of the American Indian did give me an insight that clearly connects the themes of spirituality and an appreciation of native peoples.

Emerging from the upper floor "Our Universe" exhibit, I was thinking of the number of tribes and their native beliefs. Many of the presentations and short films suggested strong connections between the landscape and sky with worship and spirituality.

I looked over the railing into the massive open space under the dome. The stepped circles forming the ceiling build to an oculus at the top. The circle with the boat displays on the main floor stands out with contrasting materials. And on the large curving wall across from me a dazzling circle of light hit almost exactly the midpoint of the space.

The building caught the sun angle perfectly to create an image of the earth and sky tied together with the focused light of the sun. This, for me, was worth all the artifacts, texts, and displays. In a building as confining as a museum, the spirit of the place literally shone through. Critics may have issues with other aspects of the museum, but at least from my perspective, this is a memorable place.

National Museum of the American Indian, 4th St & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC

Sacred Architecture