BY: JEN LEVISEN, EDITOR OF THE FORUM
March 10, 2021
The Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign makes a bold statement about diversity and inclusion before you even enter the building. Located prominently off the university’s main quad, the transparency offered on the first floor with floor-to-ceiling windows, and the solid brick envelope on the second floor support’s the center’s divergent goals of inclusion and openness while at the same time being a sanctuary of learning and support.
The new 8,200 square foot building was designed by Chicago-based architecture firm, Interactive Design Architects (IDEA). Mortarr subscriber, Endicott, a manufacturer of quality brick, thin brick, and pavers, supplied face and thin brick for the project.
“This [project] was a dream come true,” says Dina Griffin, President, Interactive Design Architects, and a 1986 Illinois alumna. “To be educated in my profession at the University of Illinois and then to come full circle and design a project there, and not just any project, but a project that is near and dear to my heart.
"THERE IS A LOT OF IDENTITY THAT COMES WITH THIS PROJECT AND THE STUDENTS ESPECIALLY WERE VERY CONCERNED THAT THIS PROJECT DISPLAYS WHO IT’S FOR."
While the design of the building is contemporary, IDEA selected Endicott brick for the exterior to blend with the more traditional buildings on campus.
“Endicott enjoys helping quality architects, such as IDEA, build their legacies that will last long into the future,” says John Ragland, Director of Marketing, Endicott.
The modular nature of brick allowed for the bold color patterning and was made up of Endicott’s manganese ironspot, sienna ironspot, dark sandstone, and light sandstone bricks to reflect the variety of ethnicities of the university’s diverse student body.
“One of our intentions with the exterior brick, including the masonry, and how the brick was laid out, was that we wanted to draw people in in,” says Griffin.
“THIS [BUILDING] IS FOR THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY.”