Two dozen candidates answered the call in December when New York-based ATCO Properties & Management announced that it wanted Black architects, and emerging Black architects, to be part of the next development phase of Camp North End.
Twenty-four submissions for the design competition were narrowed to 10, and on Wednesday, four winners were announced.
Two licensed architects — Marcus Thomas and Melanie Reddrick — and two architectural designers — Aleah Pullen and Hasheem Halim — will have their designs grace the exterior facades of four new retail pavilions at Camp North End.
Why it matters: The underrepresentation of Black professionals in the architecture industry translates to both inequities within the profession and missed business opportunities. According to the National Organization of Minority Architects, licensed Black architects represent 2% of the industry — 0.2% are Black women.
Called the “Keswick Platform” at Camp North End, the 35,000-square-foot space at 701 Keswick Avenue will contain up to seven pavilions leased to local small businesses and food and beverage concepts.
“We are thrilled with the response we received for this competition,” Damon Hemmerdinger, co-president of ATCO Properties & Management, said in a statement. “By recognizing these talented professionals and shining a light on their innovative designs, we hope to elevate the important work of Black architects in Charlotte and create more equity in the design process as well.”
The juried design competition was open to architecture students, designers and licensed architects. The 10 finalists each received $1,000, with the winners awarded an additional $2,000. Representatives from S9 Architecture, BB+M Architecture and ATCO Properties selected the finalists and winners.
Learn more about the winning designers and their designs below.
Marcus Thomas, AIA, NCARB
Managing Principal, KEi Architects
Thomas was intrigued by the idea that Camp North End developers planned to implement the winners’ concepts.
“It wasn’t a normal design competition where you’re going to do something hypothetical, and then everybody was going to forget about it,” he said. “It was actually going to get implemented, and I just had to have a piece of that.”
He knew he wanted to incorporate Charlotte’s Black community into his design. His concept focused on the past and present of uptown Charlotte.
Thomas used a reclaimed metal panel as his base material and etched a map of uptown Charlotte within it to showcase the area’s high-rises and skyscrapers. Strategically placed LED lights will backlight the panel where historically Black communities and buildings once existed in uptown.
“It’s a constant reminder when you sit there, look at the panel and then look up and see uptown,” Thomas said. “It’s meant to be a really compelling and impactful reminder of what the history actually was and what the story of Charlotte really is.”
Remaining aspects of the design incorporate natural elements like reclaimed wood and plants inspired by traditional African huts. Fiber optic string lights mimic a starry night sky.
Interesting facts about Marcus:
- The Virginia native got married shortly before relocating to Charlotte in 2018.
- He’s a graduate of Hampton University and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
- He’s a huge fan of adaptive-reuse development projects, which is another reason he was attracted to the Camp North End design competition.
Melanie Reddrick, AIA, NCIDQ
Project Architect, Little Diversified Architectural Consulting
In addition to her day job as an architect, Reddrick is also an adjunct professor in UNC Charlotte’s School of Architecture. That’s where she learned about the Camp North End design competition from a student who shared the opportunity with faculty.
Reddrick, a Charlotte native, lives within walking distance of Camp North End in the former Fairview Homes/Double Oaks community. She found it exciting for a chance to be part of the area’s growth.
“I’ve seen how it [Camp North End] has spurred development in the area where I live,” she said. “So, the opportunity to contribute to it even in a small way was exciting to me. And, I also love a good competition.”
Her design submission was inspired by the history of Fairview Homes, which opened in 1940 for low-income Black residents. It was one of Charlotte’s first efforts at public housing. It was an area she previously studied, even lectured about it.
Reddrick’s design pays homage to Charlotte’s Sanborn maps, which have recorded 100 years of growth and change in Charlotte’s North End. She used metal channels and pressure-treated plywood street signs to commemorate street names that no longer exist. She described her concept as looking forward while remembering the past.
“I just became interested in all the redevelopment of this area,” Reddrick said. “What are some of the neighborhood stories? What are some of the neighborhood place names that have been lost in history throughout the development?”
Interesting facts about Melanie:
- She is a graduate of West Charlotte High School.
- Her husband is also an architect.
- She’s collaborating with the Charlotte chapter of the American Institute of Architects to develop a scholarship for students interested in studying architecture. She’s passionate about building the pipeline for young minority talent.
Architectural Designer, Apogee Consulting Group
For Pullen, a 2020 graduate of UNC Charlotte, the design competition was a test.
“This was my first time designing something from scratch, from my own thought,” she said. “It was a test for me to see what I’ve learned from work and what I can remember from school, and try to make something that other people would like.”
Pullen knew Camp North End was a popular spot, but she’d never been there. Once she decided to enter the competition, she visited for the first time to find inspiration. It took about a week to figure out what she wanted to do and another three days to finalize her creation.
Her design concept highlights Camp North End’s existing buildings but leaves room for a tenant to customize. A shared wall can provide space for a mural, shelving or hanging display items.
Interesting facts about Aleah:
- She earned a bachelor’s degree from UNCC in 2019, so she did get to walk across the stage.
- She completed her fifth-year professional degree in 2020. She can start taking the required tests to become a licensed architect.
- Lately, libraries have been catching her eye for their funky designs.
General Manager, Saturn Atelier, LLC
Several people encouraged Halim to submit his work, the first being artist Dammit Wesley of BLKMRKTCLT.
“It just gave me a good feeling that I was supported and valued as a designer,” he said.
Halim was inspired by Camp North End’s brickwork. The unique masonry, he said, connects the past and present. He brought in recycled plastic tile to bring in a modern feel. The site’s former railroad tracks direct the eye to the entrance. They also serve as a frame for the new mural and window display. Additionally, there’s color-changing LED track lighting on the ground floor.
Interesting facts about Hasheem:
- Saturn Atelier is his passion project. Located in the Derita neighborhood, it’s a makerspace or as he described it, “an incubator for designers.”
- His interest lies in residential design because residents have to interact with their home daily.
- Originally from the Virgin Islands, he grew up in Buffalo, New York. He’s lived in Charlotte for five years.