Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center

CompanyDuvall Decker Architects, P.A.
Lead DesignerDuvall Decker Architects, P.A.
Design Team Atherton Consulting Engineers, Inc. – Mechanical Engineer The Power Source, PLLC– Electrical Engineer Structural Engineering & Associates, LLC– Structural Engineer Fountain/Major Construction Joint Venture– General Contractor
PrizeLandscape Architecture / Educational

Tougaloo College, Jackson, MS, was founded on a former slave plantation to battle inequality through education. In the 1960’s, it provided sanctuary for Civil Rights activists to share ideas and devise strategies to fight inequality and segregation. Social science seminars in Beard Hall inspired much of this effort. The new building humbly and boldly occupies its site on the campus center, adjacent to the plantation mansion. The College’s contributions to citizenship continue through its education of leaders and commitment to equality, diversity, personal responsibility and service. The project honors the College’s legacy and promotes the functions and identity of its progressive future. The architect completed a Master Plan 2002, simultaneously respecting the College’s plantation origin while progressing its civil/human rights mission. This 27,000 sf project is the first Master Plan implementation and first new academic building since 1959. Given such opportunity, this historically black, liberal arts institution in the Deep South had a long list of needs and aspirations. We worked with administrators, faculty and students to program a beneficial mix of academic spaces to complement curatorial and exhibition spaces needed for the College’s premiere art collection. The result is a mix of museum, conference, academic, and flexible in-between spaces. The Center embodies Tougaloo College’s mission by entangling students, faculty, art, visitors and community leaders in cross-disciplinary environments. In-between spaces encourage students and faculty to meet, gather and exchange ideas. Natural materials resonate with natural light and the surrounding environment and provide long-term durability and ease of maintenance for this small institution. Each space in and around the building has multiple horizons between and beyond them to encourage individual inquiry and growth. The presence of civil rights and art in the building remind us whose shoulders we stand upon and challenge us to continue the work yet undone.