551 South Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African- American Arts + Culture (formerly the Afro-American Cultural Center) has celebrated the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to American culture for 35 years and serves as a community epicenter for music, dance, theater, visual art, film, arts education programs, literature and community outreach.
The 46,500-square-foot Gantt Center is located in the heart of Charlotte's central business district in the area once occupied by the historic Brooklyn neighborhood, the once-thriving center of the black community which was razed in the 1960s.
The Gantt Center takes design inspiration from the Myers Street School which was located in the heart of the old Brooklyn neighborhood. The biblical term Jacob's Ladder was used to identify the school and referred to its prominent exterior stair configuration. The stairs signified pride and the importance of education in the advancement of African-Americans. This concept of hope, advancement and enlightenment through cultural awareness and education is expressed in the Gantt Center design through its modern interpretation of Jacob's Ladder. Stairs and escalators carry visitors up to the main second floor lobby from both ends of the building while framing the central glass atrium. The striking visual effect is a direct allusion to the original Jacob's Ladder and perpetuates the ideals of enlightenment and advancement through education.
The building's skin utilizes patterns reminiscent of quilt designs from the Underground Railroad era and woven textile patterns from West Africa. These architectural references to African and African-American history and culture underscore the building's theme while creating an innovative and inspiring facade.