National center for civil and human rights 1

National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Grand architectural gestures take center stage in this iconic cultural facility in downtown Atlanta.

Project Facts

Location Atlanta, Georgia
Owner National Center for Civil & Human Rights
Size 43,000 SF
Cost $40.6 million


Deemed “one of the most socially significant institutions of its generation,” the iconic National Center for Civil and Human Rights opened in 2014 on a prominent downtown Atlanta site and tells the story of American civil rights, powerfully connecting its lessons to human rights issues around the world.

About the project

Enormous curved exterior walls are clad in multi-hued façade tiles that suggest different races coming together. The walls also create a grand architectural gesture as interlocking arms that symbolize unity and harmony while protecting three levels of unique historical content in interactive exhibits, galleries, and event spaces. Exposed concrete ceilings, brushed-concrete columns, and angled walls accentuate the gravity of the stories told within the new 43,000-sf building.

Lead structural engineer Walter P Moore demonstrated engineering excellence in numerous ways to help bring this important building to reality. Structural creativity began with the foundations on this challenging and sensitive urban site. The engineers designed a soil nail wall along the south end of the site that could be built economically and with minimum disturbance to the sensitive site or its adjacent neighbors.

To create the irregular curving façade, Walter P Moore utilized a combination of structural steel members and carefully detailed metal studs, which were fabricated in straight sections, but cleverly arranged to form the sinuous, doubly curving façade surfaces. In addition to state-of-the-industry structural analysis, the engineer provided special detailing at each beam-column joint in the sloping structure to ensure adequate strength without excessive rebar congestion.

The project opened in 2014 to rave reviews from the public and the media and has been cited as a beacon for human rights activism around the world. First year attendance exceeded expectations and included thousands of school children as well as many heads of state.