Duvall Decker Architects

Duvall Decker Architects

Jackson, MS

Photo Credit: Eric Hudson
Photo Credit: Eric Hudson
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The Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center, Tougaloo College

The Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center is dedicated in
honor of U.S. Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, 2nd Congressional District of
Mississippi, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Tougaloo College
Alumnus; Leader, Public Servant, Advocate. The building was constructed under the
direction of Dr. Beverly Wade Hogan, President of Tougaloo College. It was designed
by Duvall Decker Architects, P.A. and constructed by Fountain/Major Joint Venture II.

The Site and Program

The Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center sits at one of the
highest points of the historic Tougaloo College campus. The building is sited to the
south of the Robert O. Wilder Mansion and formally defines the campus center, a
rolling lawn of pedestrian pathways and broad, mature cedars and oaks. The historic
Woodworth Chapel marks the center of this pastoral campus landscape.
The Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center is built on the site
of the former Beard Hall, which was lost to demolition in 1999. Beard Hall was an
important residential and academic building on the campus. Dr. Ernst Borinski led
public social science forums in the building’s basement, allowing prominent speakers,
students and other visitors to engage in discussions on human and civil rights. Dr.
Borinski and these discussions enriched the lives of generations of Tougaloo students
and helped shape the civil rights movement in the state of Mississippi.

With the dedication of the Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research
Center the site returns to serve Tougaloo College as a center of education, research,
and debate on human and civil rights for students, faculty, alumni and visitors. The
new 27,000 square-foot facility includes a series of multi-disciplinary teaching and
meeting spaces including flat floor classrooms, tiered case rooms, seminar rooms, a
large conference suite and a 120 seat lecture hall. All classrooms and teaching
facilities are equipped with the latest audio visual and computer-aided media

The Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center will also provide a
home for the prestigious Tougaloo Art Collection. Collected under the leadership of
Dr. Ronald Schnell and benefiting from the gifts of many alumni and friends of the
College, this collection includes of over 1,400 pieces and consists of paintings,
sculptures, drawings, collages and various forms of graphic art. It is widely
considered Mississippi’s most important private collection of modern Western art,
African American modern art and traditional African sculpture and artifacts. In
service of this collection, the building includes a secure art storage vault, archival,
curatorial spaces and a campus gallery for permanent and traveling exhibits. The
building is also designed to hang and prominently display student and faculty
artwork in the dedicated student gallery and throughout the building’s public spaces.

Energy Efficiency and Material Durability

The Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center is an ecologically
responsible building. The building is shaped to avoid heat gain from the western sun
and to cultivate northern natural light into its interior spaces, which minimizes the
dependence on and costs of artificial light. The building envelope exceeds standard
insulation requirements for the region. The building is a low consumer of energy,
utilizing a high performance variable-air-volume, zone-controlled HVAC system with
a building energy management system to optimize comfort and conservation.
Overall, the energy efficient design plans for 20% better performance than
ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-1999 goals for conservation of utilities.

The building is durable in material and detail and is designed for long-term service to
the College. The interior finishes in public spaces include hardened polished concrete
floors and ground face masonry walls. The exterior materials include traditional brick
and zinc flashing and standing seam wall panels. These materials are economical,
but high quality, choices that will require little maintenance throughout the life of the
building. The construction utilizes largely local materials and labor minimizing
embodied energy costs, and it includes the use of only Forest Stewardship Council
approved wood products. The building is healthy; providing light and natural
ventilation in the classrooms, and utilizing materials which are certified low-emitting
(minimizing all VOC’s, toxins and allergens).

An Educational Building Design

Tougaloo College is a private, historically black, liberal arts institution formed out of
the earliest and most courageous battles against slavery and is formative in the
struggles and successes of the Civil Rights Movement. Tougaloo College is dedicated
to academic excellence and individual social commitment. In the 1960’s, the campus
courageously provided sanctuary for Civil Rights leaders and workers as they shared
ideas, devised strategies and fought for freedom, equality and an end to segregation.
The College’s contributions to citizenship continue through its education of young
leaders and its commitment to equality, diversity, personal responsibility and
community service.

The Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center is organized to
embody Tougaloo College’s educational mission by entangling students, faculty, art,
visitors and campus leaders in cross-disciplinary educational environments. In
addition to the formal educational environments, there are many nooks and pauses
in the building for students to meet and to talk, for faculty and students to gather
and exchange ideas, and for all to see and feel the presence of the art and Civil
Rights history. Each space in and around the building has multiple horizons
between and beyond them to encourage individual inquiry and growth. Each wing is
connected by compressed thresholds constructed of aluminum walls with images of
important Civil Rights events and figures. These thresholds palpably embody a
sense of the movement from oppression to freedom and promote pause and
reflection in the daily habitation of the building. These civil rights thresholds remind
all of us whose shoulders we stand upon and challenge us to continue the work yet

The design of the building is both respectful and progressive. It promotes the
servant leadership of the College and its namesake while its materials and
composition complement the historic surroundings of the campus. Tougaloo College,
with the Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center, is
strengthened as a place “Where History Meets the Future.”

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Status: Built
Location: Jackson, MS

Photo Credit: Mark Howell
Photo Credit: Mark Howell
Photo Credit: Mark Howell
Photo Credit: Mark Howell
Photo Credit: Mark Howell
Photo Credit: Mark Howell
Photo Credit: Mark Howell
Photo Credit: Mark Howell