Case Studies / Cities


National Center for Human and Civil Rights: Atlanta, Georgia

The Purpose

Where do we go to learn about human rights struggles around the world, advocate for one another and embrace justice?

Where can we understand our history, celebrate progress and civilly confront the issues of our day?

●      Yesterday’s museum cannot address today’s world.

●      Young people don’t just need a field trip, they need a head trip.

●      Sharing a world is the central challenge of humanity.

●      The Center is worth creating because it is a new kind of institution for a new kind of world.[1]

The Center (CCHR) will be an archives, museum, and cultural and research facility.  The mission is to commemorate the contributions of Georgians to the struggle for African-American freedom and equality; to highlight the contributions of current and future struggles for freedom worldwide; to encourage the discussion and study of human and civil rights movements domestically and abroad; and serve as a place for conflict resolution.

In construction; to be complete Spring 2014. Budget: Construction = 85M (revised originally 125M). $5M Endowment.

The History


●      Evelyn Lowery, Juanita Abernathy, Ambassador Young and U.S. Representative Joe Lewis approached Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin with a long-simmering idea: the creation of a center to commemorate the central role of Atlanta and its citizens in the work of civil and human rights.

●      Mayor commissioned a working group, made-up of community leaders, to explore Center feasibility.


●      Working group recommended to the mayor that “a Center should be established to commemorate the groundbreaking contributions of Atlantans and Georgians to the historic struggle for African American freedom and equality, and also serve as a space for ongoing dialogue, study, and contributions to the resolution of current and future freedom struggles of all people at the local, national, and international level.”


●      The Center’s strategic planning and fundraising started.


●      Design firm selected.


●      Original design revealed.


●      Redesign – In response to tough economic conditions, the original design was modified to ensure that the Center could operate on a 100% self-sustaining model when it opens. This updated design approach also allows the Center to add two additional phases to the project in the coming years.

●      Construction begins; scheduled to be complete summer 2014.

The Concept

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights will be a 35,000+ square foot facility in the heart of Downtown Atlanta. It will be a world class cultural institution dedicated to exploring stories of civil and human rights in dynamic indoor and outdoor spaces. The design is inspired by “the simple yet powerful image of interlocking arms that signifies the linkages that empower individuals and groups of seemingly divergent interests to find common ground.

Over the course of the Center’s first 10 years in operation, it is projected to generate $1.3 billion in economic impact for Atlanta and an estimated $50 million in tax revenue for the city and the state. The Center expects about 600,000 to 800,000 visitors during its first year. It will create 1,150 sustainable jobs on top of 1,550 temporary construction and supporting jobs generated during two years of construction[2].

Like many of the new museums, the Atlanta center aims higher than the first wave of monuments to the period. It will link the civil rights movement to global human rights, exploring how, for example, Dr. King’s speeches helped fuel the Arab Spring[3].

Rather than find an architect to design a building first, we wanted to consider the content that would be inside the center and then understand the visitor experience. We could design a building around that.” Ellen Mendelsohn, CCHR senior project manager


So what will visitors see when they walk into this dramatically designed, ultra-ambitious new center? And what is the center, exactly? A museum? A think tank? A forum? A performance space? A lecture hall? A protest site?

Well . . . yes[4].

The center will be a living place that will hold national and global exhibitions, conferences, performances, and events while also serving as a catalyst for Atlanta organizations and individuals to discuss civil and human rights issues. It will be a focal point for the most important legacy Atlanta maintains—ongoing leadership on issues of civil and human rights.” Doug Shipman CCHR Executive Director

[1] National Center for Human and Civil Rights website

Accessed 2012-07-26.

[2] Central Atlanta Progress: Atlanta Downtown Improvement District website Accessed 2012-07-27.

[3] Severson, Kim. “New Museums to Shine a Spotlight on Civil Rights Era.” The New York Times. February 19, 2012. Accessed 2012-07-27

[4] McNair, Charles. “The Dream Center: Emory adds voices to a new Atlanta landmark.” Emory Magazine. Spring 2009. Accessed 2012-07-27

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