One of Atlanta’s most cherished museums has begun construction on a project that will make it more than 50 percent larger, and new renderings provided to Urbanize Atlanta illustrate more clearly than ever what that expansion will look like.

As a means of commemorating its 10th anniversary, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is refreshing its current facilities and expanding its recognizable downtown building with two new wings—totaling about 24,000 square feet—to add classrooms, more exhibits, and event spaces. The project is expected to cost $56 million.

The current NCCHR, which opened with 42,500 square feet in June 2014, was designed by the late, award-winning architect Philip Freelon in partnership with HOK. Its designs were chosen following an international competition.

The Perkins & Will-designed expansion project calls for new wings added around the NCCHR’s symbolic, multicolored façade, both of them swooping from Pemberton Place around toward Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard.

A rendering of the NCCHR expansion, as seen from across Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard. Courtesy of National Center for Civil and Human Rights; designs, Perkins & Will

Plans for the east wing expansion. Courtesy of National Center for Civil and Human Rights; designs, Perkins & Will

The ongoing NCCHR expansion will be substantial enough to temporarily close the museum between January and August 2025, according to project officials.

The center’s new wings are scheduled to open sometime in the fall of next year.

Protective fencing installed around the museum’s perimeter will remain in place through the duration of construction, per officials. The museum's Pemberton Place and Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard entrances will remain accessible throughout 2024.

To foot the bill for a larger facility, NCCHR’s “Fulfilling the Vision” capital campaign has raised more than $52 million, with a goal of eventually bringing in $56 million. Additional efforts geared toward community fundraising “to generate broad participation in the expansion project” will begin this spring, per project leaders.  

How the reimagined King Gallery is expected to look and function. Courtesy of National Center for Civil and Human Rights; designs, Perkins & Will

Rendering of new wings as seen over Pemberton Place. Courtesy of National Center for Civil and Human Rights; designs, Perkins & Will

Officials tell Urbanize Atlanta more than two dozen companies, foundations, and individuals have contributed to the expansion campaign to date.

A $15 million gift from the Arthur M. Blank Foundation “anchored” the fundraising efforts. Other public and private funding has included $10 million from the City of Atlanta, $8.5 million from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, and $5 million from the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation. 

The NCCHR won’t be idle during its 2025 closure. Staff plan to host community events across metro Atlanta that include NCCHR’s Truth programs, which are designed to “bring history to life and address contemporary rights issues” at area restaurants, coffee shops, and event and performance venues, per the center.

As seen today, the multi-toned NCCHR facade was designed to represent "a mosaic of different nationalities [and] the idea that people from all walks of life can work together in harmony," per the center. Courtesy of National Center for Civil and Human Rights

NCCHR will also continue to administer its current programming—such as K-12 education, the LGBTQ+ Institute, and human rights training for law enforcement—throughout the closure.

Find more imagery in the gallery above.


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