The Building

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights was designed by award-winning architect Philip Freelon in partnership with HOK (now Perkins+Will), who was chosen after an international design competition.

His goal for the building was to create a physical representation of the Center’s vision. The curved walls of the Center represent two cupped hands, protecting something sacred: the dignity of all human beings.

The exterior façade displays many tones, a mosaic of different nationalities that represents the idea that people from all walks of life can work together in harmony.

Details

Inspired by architecture and spaces associated with historic civil and human rights movements and events, The National Center for Civil and Human Rights creates a space for action. Conceived by award-winning architect Philip Freelon in partnership with HOK (now Perkins+Will), The Center’s unique structure is designed to enhance the experience of visitors and inspire them to learn about and take action for the civil and human rights movements worldwide.

Phil Freelon was chosen following an international design competition. The winning design was then developed with the goal of creating a physical representation of the Center’s vision. The curved walls of the Center embrace the interior exhibits and supporting spaces in a manner that suggests the joining of hands. The colors of the façade creates the illusion of many tones, akin to skin and representing different nationalities. This powerful gesture also alludes to the idea that people from all walks of life can work together toward a common goal.

Occupying more than 42,000 square feet in Downtown Atlanta, The Center is located on Pemberton Place®, adjacent to the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium, on land donated by the Coca-Cola Company. The building was designed with sustainability in mind and features a green roof, flanked by two plazas. One plaza welcomes pedestrians from Pemberton Place, while the rear plaza opens onto Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and features a glass and steel water sculpture with etched quotations from Nelson Mandela and Margaret Mead. 

The Center has three levels of exhibition galleries and event spaces. The main entrance, accessible from Pemberton Place, is on the lobby (2nd) level, which hosts the U.S. Civil Rights exhibition.

The lower (1st) level houses the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection in the Voice to the Voiceless Gallery as well as a multi-purpose event space overlooking the lower plaza. This space is available to rent for private parties.

The top (3rd) level of The Center houses “Spark of Conviction,” our global human rights exhibition, and a mezzanine overlooking Pemberton Place, Centennial Olympic Park and downtown Atlanta.