Spanning several decades, in locations as disparate as West End and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and points far beyond, works by black architects in a city long known as springboard of opportunity continue to inspire.
To spotlight a handful of the more remarkable buildings and venues in Atlanta designed by black architects, we consulted with AIA Atlanta and AIA Georgia, along with architects at local firms, in 2018 and again this year.
This revised compendium (albeit a sampling) is presented below in no particular order, in recognition of Black History Month—although much of the work is very much of-the-moment, if not the future.
The works of Oscar Harris/Turner Associates
Atlanta counts an estimated 50 million annual visitors, and it’s a safe bet many of their impressions of the city—including first impressions for airport travelers—are informed by the works of Oscar Harris, FAIA, a pioneering Atlanta architect and artist whose career has spanned four decades.
“To my knowledge, no other architect has done so many public realm projects in downtown,” says Atlanta architect Garfield Peart, president of Syntony Design Collaborative, who counts Harris as a mentor.
Harris’s firm designed the Atlanta airport’s atrium (above) and Concourse E and was part of a team effort that drew up the airport’s 2000 masterplan. Elsewhere, the firm’s work includes the iconic Centennial Olympic Park light towers (designed as part of the overall look for the 1996 Games), MLK Visitors Center, and Georgia State Student Center, among many other projects.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Harris opened the Atlanta office of Washington D.C.-based Turner Associates in 1977 before buying out its operations and uprooting the company headquarters to Atlanta.
Twenty years later, Turner Associates was considered among the country’s leading architecture firms, in terms of projects and billing, as the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported in 1997, recognizing Harris’s success in an industry where female and minority players were once uncommon.
Center for Civil and Human Rights
Design Lead: Phil Freelon (Freelon and Associates; now with Perkins+Will)
Project Lead Architect: Marc Johnson (HOK; now with Fitzgerald Collaborative Group)
Rich with symbolism, this 42,000-square-foot facility erected on land donated by the Coca-Cola Company (operators of the World of Coca-Cola next door) is among the more impressive architectural works completed anywhere in Atlanta in recent memory.
Working in close collaboration with Atlanta’s Marc Johnson, internationally recognized architect Phil Freelon, then of Durham, North Carolina-based Freelon and Associates, led design of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at downtown’s Pemberton Place.
The center’s angled walls represent protective hands, and the facade—clad with Trespa Meteon Metallics—creates “the illusion of many tones, akin to skin and representing different nationalities,” per the CCHR.
The $69 million facility opened at the cusp of Centennial Olympic Park in 2014, and it’s since become a major draw for Atlanta’s burgeoning tourism district.
Ray Charles Performing Arts Center and Music Academic Building
Robert L. Brown Associates
Founded by Robert L. Brown in 1984, the R.L. Brown & Associates firm designed this 76,000-square-foot performing arts center at Morehouse College to meet the academic mission of the department of music.
The same firm served as associate architects on downtown’s World of Coca-Cola (below), a four-story, LEED Gold certified museum with adjacent pavilion and parking deck.
Atlanta Botanical Garden parking
JW Robinson & Associates (with Jova Daniels Busby)
Atlantans in recent years have developed a hate-hate relationship with the city’s many parking decks, and for good reason. But this is no ordinary garage.
Designed by JW Robinson, a multigenerational firm now led by Jeffrey Robinson, this seven-story structure with green flourishes helped solve parking issues at Atlanta’s premier green space, Piedmont Park.
From most public areas, the garage is practically invisible. Elsewhere, it drips with plants.
The $14 million project fits nearly 800 vehicles and won the 2011 American Institute of Architects Citation Design Award.
The same firm designed Sweet Auburn’s $48 million Renaissance Walk project (a joint venture with Praxis 3, pictured below).
The six-story residential structure incorporated three historically significant buildings and took home the 2009 Honor Award from the South Atlantic Region of the American Institute of Architects for Design Excellence.
New Horizon Sanctuary, Ebenezer Baptist Church
Ebenezer Baptist Church in Sweet Auburn was the home church of Martin Luther King Jr. When the church elected to build a large new facility across the street from the historic sanctuary, they looked no further than local firm Stanley Love-Stanley.
One of the foremost African-American-led architecture firms in Atlanta, the husband-and-wife duo created a soaring sanctuary to seat 1,600 worshipers. The building and its bell tower fuse modern form, African symbolism, and classic church design.
Beyond Sweet Auburn, Stanley Love-Stanley has designed numerous religious spaces across the city.
Another one of note is the Lyke House Catholic Student Center at Atlanta University Center. The boxy structure references the Church of St. George in Ethiopia.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Landside Modernization
Chasm Architecture (with HOK and SLS)
As part of a joint venture, Chasm Architecture is working on the under-construction modernization of arrivals and departures areas at Hartsfield-Jackson.
New sweeping glass canopies mark the entrance to the north and south terminals, providing protection to passengers from the elements.
Goode van Slyke Architecture (with HOK, tvsdesign, and Stanley Beaman & Sears)
A design task of gargantuan proportions, Mercedes-Benz Stadium required the talents of many top designers locally and nationally. Goode van Slyke Architecture, a longtime fixture in Atlanta, was part of the multi-year project.
Headquartered less than two miles from the stadium, the firm has worked on many projects throughout the city, including under-construction 788 West Midtown, the Marietta Street corridor’s first glassy high-rise.
— Former Curbed Atlanta associate editor Michael Kahn contributed to the initial version of this report