This locus for Civil Rights history and ongoing social justice work is situated in the heart of Atlanta’s Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site and Preservation District, attracting nearly one million visitors each year. Max Bond was commissioned by the King Foundation to design the Center, which occupies a block-long urban campus. The major program buildings are Freedom Hall, a conference, education, and exhibit center, and the Archives and Administration Building, home to an unparalleled collection of Civil Rights movement material. A vaulted colonnade extends the length of the site, connecting to the Chapel of All Faiths. The campus also contains Dr. King’s crypt in a quiet glade.
The architecture strives to provide an appropriate setting for the legacy of an essential figure in US history. The combination of formal and relaxed campus organization is dignified but approachable, and provides different kinds of spaces for the different experiences visitors choose to have. Buildings are solid and finely proportioned. Originally, most structures were to be clad in marble, but Max Bond successfully advocated for straightforward exposed concrete and brick construction, championing its spiritual and cultural resonance with the Center’s goals. Extensive use of locally-produced brick also creates opportunities for the traditionally high percentage of African-American masons.
The Center’s design integrates an arts program including murals on the barrel-vaults of the colonnade depicting Dr. King’s campaigns and
historical precedents for the Civil Rights movement. Sculptures and other thematic works of art are incorporated throughout the campus. Davis Brody Bond continued to work with the Center throughout the 1980s on a series of site improvements including exterior lighting, landscaping, chapel upgrades, and new art and exhibit installations.