Camp North End developer ATCO Properties & Management held a competition in 2020, calling for submissions from emerging Black architects. The challenge: design exterior façades for Keswick Platform, an upcoming retail corridor along Keswick Avenue. The winners would conceptualize four of the pavilions inside the area. Spurred partly by conversations surrounding equity in design, ATCO’s new competition was met with 24 portfolio submissions.
Jurors from S9 Architecture, BB+M Architecture, and ATCO shortlisted 10 before landing on the final four victors, which included Hasheem Halim, Aleah Pullen, Melanie Reddrick, and Marcus Thomas. All 10 of the finalists submitted proposals and received $1,000 for their work; the winning architects received an additional $2,000 each. While each of the four winners took a distinct approach—from materials utilized to the distinct profiles of each façade—there was a philosophical throughline: Each asserted the need to honor the past and context of Camp North End and the broader Charlotte area.
For Halim, the use of existing materials is a way to bridge the identity of North Graham Street to the future. He took advantage of an intimate knowledge of the neighborhood for his final proposal. “I am a firm believer that successful architecture needs to honor its context,” he says. “Most times this is expressed in the material finishes of buildings. Luckily for me, I ride on Graham Street by bike and car very often, so I went with my instinct on this design.”
Pullen’s proposal spoke to drawing “inspiration from existing conditions while allowing the tenant’s creativity to shine through.” Reddick implemented the past streets of the neighborhood into the design by referencing historic Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. And Thomas used the prominent view of uptown as inspiration, and his proposal suggested LED lights that “backlight the areas of the panel where historic structures, important to Charlotte’s African-American community once stood or still reside.”
As of this writing, winners of the competition were buzzing with anticipation to see how their designs would come to life. “This experience has been like none other in Charlotte,” Halim says. “There aren’t many open calls for architects to submit ideas in this city, and the pay structure was very progressive. I am excited to see how my idea translates into built form. It will be my first built structure.”