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Camp North End Announces Winners of Emerging Black Architects Design Competition
Four chosen to design engaging facades for new retail pavilionsby Page Leggett on January 26, 2021
“Charlotte has a public plaza problem,” said Hasheem Halim, GM of creative workshop Saturn Atelier in Charlotte’s Derita neighborhood.
“And Camp North End solves it, to an extent, with that main drag where dupp&swat and BLKMRKTCLT are. It’s great on a Friday or Saturday night to hang out, relax and let the sounds of the city kind of fade away.”
Camp North End, developed by ATCO Properties & Management, is one of the largest adaptive reuse projects now underway in the entire country. They have already transformed a historic 76-acre site where cars and missiles were once assembled into something never seen before in Charlotte.
The project is transforming the city’s cultural life and identity. It’s helping address the city’s shortage of public places that invite people to linger and experience a diversity of creative businesses.
What architect wouldn’t want his or her imprint on such a high-profile, high-impact project?
Four young, Black architects are getting that opportunity. Last November, ATCO announced a design competition, open to Black architects, designers and architecture students, to design the façades of a new retail pavilion at 701 Keswick Ave.
Designing New Homes for Small Businesses
The “Keswick Platform” will contain up to seven pavilions that house local small businesses and food and beverage concepts. Four will be designed by the competition winners. In addition to Hasheem Halim, they include:
- Aleah Pullen, a recent UNC Charlotte graduate and an architectural designer at Apogee Consulting Group
- Melanie Reddrick, AIA, project architect with Charlotte-based firm Little Diversified Architectural Consulting
- Marcus R. Thomas, AIA, managing principal at community-based design firm KEi Architects.
ATCO got 24 portfolio submissions, then shortlisted 10 entrants to create their design proposals. The finalists were each awarded $1,000. The four winners received an additional $2,000.
Damon Hemmerdinger, co-president of ATCO, said in a news release, “[W]e hope to elevate the important work of Black architects in Charlotte and create more equity in the design process.”
The process spoke to Pullen, who welcomed the opportunity to put her skills to work: “I appreciate Camp North End bringing diversity to the architecture world, especially in Charlotte. There’s a very small number of Black architects – anywhere – so the fact that this contest specifically asked for them appealed to me.”
A sense of place
“All the designs we selected were grounded in our specific place,” Hemmerdinger said. “Some designers took inspiration from the neighborhood, some from graphics on-site and others from the heritage of some of the residents of the North End. But in one way or another, all found a way to make a design that is specific to this site.”
Reddrick’s design, showcasing wide metal channels and pressure-treated plywood street signs, honors the changing landscape of the area and includes elements from old maps.
Thomas’ design juxtaposes the high rises of uptown with the city’s habit of tearing down history, particularly in African-American communities. Etched within the reclaimed metal panel of the façade is a current map of uptown. LED lights reveal areas where structures of significance to Charlotte’s African-American community once stood or, in rare cases, still do.
Halim tries not to have a signature style, but some elements do appear frequently in his work – angles, geometry, textures. As a Camp North End regular, he knows the site’s history and aesthetic. “My first decision was to use the railroad ties as a design element,” he said. “Camp North End has so many railroad connections, and Graham Street runs along a rail line.”
Matching Style with Sustainability
“Camp North End is all about sustainability,” said Halim. “I wanted to align with that and also introduce something I’m personally interested in – plastics recycling.”
His design picks up on the chevron pattern of some of the original brickwork. Now, recycled plastic stands in for the original brick – but the pattern remains consistent.
After this project, Halim is creating an intimate makerspace in north Charlotte at his Saturn Atelier makerspace, which offers space for woodworking, graphic design and other creative pursuits. “The prize funding is going to help me outfit the space,” he said. “My big dream is to have a design school, maybe an after-school program for kids or a storefront in a couple years. This is great momentum.”
‘On the right track’
Pullen appreciates, she said, “the rebirth of this old industrial area that’s just been sitting here.”
“I really wanted to look at how people engage with the site,” she said. When she came for her first site visit, she encountered a choir singing outside. That’s the kind of magic that pops up at Camp North End.
“I wanted to pay homage to its history and the original materials,” she said. “So, I called out the truss system above the pavilions. I tried to mimic that in the way the mullion systems work in my design.”
Her façade is composed of metal-clad panels that future tenants can customize. A gypsum wallboard will allow them to create displays and install shelving of their own.
Pullen is just starting her career, so being among winners is an early vote of confidence.
“This commission means my ideas have value,” she said. “In college, you’d get an A or a B on design but still wonder: Is this practical? To know that my ideas are valuable and practical and someone is willing to pay for them – it’s like wow, maybe I’m on the right track. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”