Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center
Tuesday 22 Apr 2014


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Any site is the ground of a culture, a history, a landscape, and is poised to let its people continue their story. At Tougaloo College the character of the ground is intense and palpable, an active participant in the meaning of the place. This historically black liberal arts institution proudly lives its mission, 'Where History Meets the Future'. Founded on a former slave plantation, the campus centre is still crowned by the former master's mansion, not removed but carefully restored. Across the green is the Woodworth Chapel, a significant pulpit for the leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement. The American Missionary Association turned the Boddie plantation into a school to educate the oppressed. Tougaloo College transformed a school into a platform from which its students, faculty and guests could literally change the world. Heroes were forged here and continue to gain strength and inspiration from this place. Tougaloo College is hosting the 50th Annual Freedom Summer celebration in the summer of 2014. Freedom summer activities in 1964 led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. At the celebration, the Boddie Mansion, the Woodworth Chapel and the Bennie G. Thompson Academic and Civil Rights Research Centre will be the hosts and landmarks of the event that, the built embodiments of the College's living mission and influence beyond its borders.

The new Bennie G. Thompson Academic and Civil Rights Research Centre replaced Beard Hall, the building where Ernst Borinski's Social Science seminars turned students into activists and heroes. The diverse program of the new building includes multi-disciplinary meeting and teaching spaces, a conference suite, and a lecture hall. The building also accommodates the Tougaloo Art Collection with archival, curatorial, storage and display spaces. The building extends the story of Tougaloo College and its influence on culture, by promoting individual inquiry over institutional authority.  The spatial relationships of the building entangle students, faculty and visitors in dialogues with one another, with their environment, with works of art and with the history of their place.  The form is indirect, a character who is engaging, not instructive, a network of pauses with multiple horizons in and through the building, spaces that are at once enveloping and expansive, places that foster contemplation and growth.  Many buildings are assembled programs, instructional in their tight fit to a defined program.  The Bennie G. Thompson building responsibly accommodates its diverse functions, but its spaces offer much more than simple use.  Boundaries are indeterminate and interconnected and characters are plural. 




Duvall Decker Architects, P.A.