Located in Montgomery, Alabama, this center is known for its years of courtroom accomplishments, legal victories against white supremacist groups, monitoring of hate activity across the country, national tolerance education, and the Civil Rights Memorial. The Center was founded in 1971 by Morris Dees and Joe Levin, two southern lawyers who shared a commitment to racial equality.
The work of the Southern Poverty Law Center is essential to this country in achieving equality for all. The design for their new headquarters building strives to educate the visitor/participant about the issues surrounding the Civil Rights movement. However, this task cannot be achieved by architecture alone. It must be a combination of the physical environment and the efforts of the people within.
The design team is proud to be involved with such an organization.
The building design works to further the cause of Civil Rights through a variety of design issues. As an icon for the work of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the building will act as a reminder that abuses of civil rights still are many and widespread. In addition, the building is part of a larger site context that includes the Civil Rights Memorial and the church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. first began his sermons on equality.
The siting of the building takes advantage of these features by pushing back from the memorial to create a public plaza. This creates a precinct for the memorial and the new headquarters building. The building raises up from its concrete base to provide unobstructed views of Dr. King’s church from the memorial.
The interior layout of the building is designed to promote interaction. The building organizes into two components. The “support core” contains all support services and hard-wall spaces. The “office block” is a column-free, open office environment with its primary view oriented to the north. This open office block will foster a new era of interaction among the lawyers, whose work space has until now been isolated by hard-wall offices.
The open office area gets floor-to-ceiling glass facing north. By contrast, the south facade is more solid, giving only specific views of the memorial. The experience of seeing the memorial becomes a special event for the staff member who works in the building throughout the day.
Supporting the theme of interaction, the double-height library/work spaces create an opportunity for team interaction. They face to the south, giving them a specific and directed view of the Civil Rights Memorial. These spaces are also visible to the visitors of the memorial, creating a visual connection between the civil rights activist of the past and those currently working for the cause.
The new headquarters is a six-story, 62,000 square foot facility with underground parking for approximately 120 cars. The building consists of a concrete and steel structural frame, with stone and metal cladding.
2008 – AIA Montgomery, AL Chapter Honorable Mention
2004 – AIA Gulf States Region Honor Award
2001 – AIA Philadelphia Gold Medal
1998 – AIA Philadelphia Award of Recognition
Situated in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, this apartment building contributes to the continued growth of the area by providing loft-type apartments above a small ground-floor commercial space. The mass of the building is lifted off the ground to allow parking at the ground level, but also to invoke a sense of weightlessness in the upper portion of the building. The facade is composed of shallow balconies, full-height windows, and brick panels that slide between concrete floor slabs. This works as a counterpoint to the traditional punched-opening scheme that is abundant among Philadelphia architecture, both old and new.
Each unit plan is centered around a utility core that includes a kitchen, bathroom, laundry, closets and a gas fireplace. The object-like quality of the core allows for free circulation around and through each unit, lending the space a loft-like sensibility. Sliding partitions add to this pinwheel movement of space and allow the dweller to place furniture and other objects at their discretion. A significantly thick exterior wall stands in opposition to the openness of the plan and provides window niches deep enough for a reading chair. Encompassing an integral feel to the interior, shallow balconies draw daylight into the living space, as opposed to deeper balconies which tend to feel separate and shadowy.
A mixture of unit sizes and configurations accommodate family groups of different sizes and a shared roof deck overlooking Center City encourages a lively sense of community.