National Center for Civil and Human Rights

191 Peachtree Street, Suite 2250
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Michael Katzin, AIA

Project Location: 100 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW, Atlanta, GA 30313
Completion Date: 06/23/2014
Owner: The National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Builder: H.J. Russell & Company, C.D. Moody Construction Company and Holder Construction Company, Joint Venture

Architects Involved:



Design Architect: Freelon (now part of Perkins+Will)

Contact Name: Phil Freelon, FAIA, Design and Managing Director

Address: 5310 South Alston Ave

City: Durham

State: NC

Zip: 27713


Phone Number: (919) 433-5300

Contribution: Design Architect



Architect of Record: HOK

Contact Name: Michael Katzin, Vice President

Address: 191 Peachtree Street, NE Suite 2250

City: Atlanta


Zip: 30303


Phone Number: (678) 954-8976

Contribution: Architect of Record, Landscape Design

Engineers Involved:

Structural: Walter P Moore and Sykes Engineering;
Doug Robinson/

Darien Sykes/

Civil: Long Engineering; Joe Severin/770-951-2495/

Mechanical and Plumbing: Newcomb & Boyd; William W. Dean, PE, LEED AP/404-730-8400/

Electrical: Davis Pullen Engineers, Inc; 404-763-1040

Additional Team:

Exhibit Design: Rockwell Group

Contact Name: David Rockwell

Address: 5 Union Square West

City: New York

State: NY

Zip: 10003


Phone Number: 212.463.0334

Contribution: Exhibit Design



Project Manager: Gude Management Group in partnership with Cousins Properties

Name/Company Name:

Contact Name (if different from above): John Goff, Senior Vice President, Development

Address: 191 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 500

City: Atlanta,

State: GA

Zip: 30303


Phone Number: 404.407.1290

Contribution: Project Manager

Project Description

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights features immersive exhibit galleries, meeting space, lobbies, a retail venue as well as building and staff support space. Careful to distinguish itself as more than a museum, the Center’s program also supports an active agenda focused on advancing human rights issues. The 43,000 sf building and site design cost $40.6m and the exhibits and furnishings cost $14.5m.

The design of the Center is driven by the idea of creating a Space for Action. This concept is inspired by great urban spaces from around the world that are synonymous with historic civil and human rights events. The two curved walls of the Center define not only the interior spaces but also the urban setting that forms the broader Space for Action.

The Center’s entrance plazas welcome pedestrians from all directions. With 30 feet of elevation change, the design offers entrances on two levels. The lower level entrance faces a plaza that features an uplifting glass and steel water sculpture. The upper-level plaza faces Pemberton Place, an elliptical pedestrian park that connects the Center to the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium. The two plazas are connected along the building’s east side by a sweeping exterior stair and terraced landscape of indigenous grasses and native shade trees.

Held between the two curved walls, the program is arranged on three levels. Visitors access the primary building entrance and lobby from Pemberton Place – on the middle floor of the structure. From the lobby, visitors enter the Civil Rights exhibit gallery. The story of the American Civil Rights movement consists of a series of black box rooms that tell the story in a linear manner. A mix of traditional and multimedia exhibits in a light and sound controlled environment offer a theatrical and immersive experience.

A second stairway leads visitors up to a sweeping balcony overlooking the lobby, Centennial Olympic Park and downtown Atlanta.  From this level, visitors to enter the Human Rights exhibit gallery. The story of the Global Human Rights Movement is comprised of free-flowing, thematically organized exhibits, encouraging visitors to wander among the exhibits in an open-ended manner. Both the Civil Rights and Human Rights exhibits culminate on the upper floor in an elliptical gallery of shared accomplishments that opens to the balcony and lounge.

The lower level features the special gallery dedicated to the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. collection and a large multi-purpose room overlooking the lower plaza. The MLK papers are displayed in a quiet, reverential gallery lined with hickory planks etched with his words. A monumental stair connects the lower level to the main lobby above. An array of east-facing windows transform this stair into a chapel-like experience, bringing daylight deep into the building.

Together, the Center’s architecture and exhibits become a true Space for Action and create an experience that inspires each visitor through recognition of our shared history and the role we all play in supporting civil and human rights.