New Hampton Series 4

This dynamic design features perforated wall areas which highlight the project and are quite spectacular to see. The crisscross over the wall, are two foot wide, perforated, and have lighting directly behind them.

An institution designed to present, preserve and promote African American art does just that with its building alone. The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture opened in Charlotte, N.C., in October 2009. The Afro-American Cultural Center was relocated to the city’s historic Brooklyn community—originally a vibrant African American neighborhood that has been replaced by urban renewal—and renamed after the city’s first African American mayor.

This piece of art’s façade was born from aspects of African American history and Brooklyn’s influence. Once situated near the site was the Myers School, which had prominent fire escapes flanking the building, leading to the school’s nickname of “Jacob’s Ladder.” Architectural firm the Freelon Group, Durham, N.C., recreated Jacob’s Ladder—a symbol of hope, enlightenment and advancement–on the south façade of the center with the use of the circulation of elements and the articulation of a central atrium. Draped over the building’s edge is the next design influence—quilts. Quilting’s historical significance comes from tales that explain that a safe house, during the time of the Underground Railroad, was designated when a quilt depicting a log cabin with a black center for the chimney was hung in a house’s window. Also, the path of the Underground Railroad was said to be indicated by quilts with variations of Jacob’s Ladder. Freelon used the quilting pattern for Jacob’s Ladder as a generative device for the design of the building’s skin and also examined quilts in the center’s collection for inspiration.

“We studied many options to create the ephemeral quality of quilting material, eschewing more literal interpretations like coil link or tensile fabric,” said Kevin Turner, AIA, LEED AP, associate principal with Freelon.

Turner and his team brought this concept to life with perforated metal panels from Fabral. Hefti-Rib, a horizontal exposed-fastener panel, was perforated for the project. The panels were finished in two shades of copper.

Ultimately, the metal panels were artistically employed and brilliantly fabricated to give rise to images of African American history and invite all to learn even more in the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture.