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Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

The Freelon Group

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Project Description

The Gantt Center celebrates contributions of African Americans to our nation’s culture and serves as a vital resource in Charlotte for music, dance, theater, visual and film arts, arts education, literature and community outreach. The Center draws design inspiration from the historic Myers School that once stood nearby in the Brooklyn neighborhood: a thriving African American community that was slowly displaced by expansion of the central business district. The school’s prominent exterior staircases inspired its byname - “Jacob’s Ladder School.” The Center’s stairs and escalators, together with the articulation of the central atrium, pay tribute to “Jacob’s Ladder”, linking the building to its historic context. 

The 46,500 sf building is situated on a 50-foot by 400-foot tract of land. This site is also positioned directly above car and truck access ramps that lead to below-grade parking for the adjacent high-rise mixed-use development. By elevating the main lobby to the second floor, truck and car ramps can enter the site without interrupting the logical flow of the building’s interior space. This dynamic subsurface vehicular activity and the exaggerated linear proportions of the site provided a great opportunity for a powerful architectural response to the building’s program and physical context.

The exterior facade of the Center is inspired by African textile designs and African American quilting patterns. Perforated metal panels are “stitched” together by diagonal steel channels with windows provided in areas needing daylight. The pattern continues on the north side of the building, which will eventually abut future development.
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