Interactive Design Architects
Rendering of plans for the Bruce Nesbitt African American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois.

Plans unveiled for new African American Cultural Center at University of Illinois

May 3, 2017
The $5.5 million Bruce Nesbitt African American Cultural Center is replacing an aging facility that had to be closed for safety reasons.

Final designs for the new $5.5 million Bruce Nesbitt African American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana will be presented next week to university trustees.

The News-Gazette reports that the two-story modern glass-and-brick building has been designed to provide a "home away from home" for black students and reach out to the broader campus. The new home for the center, which was founded in 1969, will have 8,000 square feet of offices and activity space. Construction is due to be completed by December 2018.

The old center, originally built as a house, was closed in spring 2014 for safety reasons. The center was moved to temporary quarters in a campus recreation building.

The project is being funded with a mix of donations, institutional funds and student fees.

A wall of glass will cover the west side of the facility. The transparency is meant to invite the public in to learn about the center's mission, says architect Dena Griffin of Interactive Design Architects.

The south side, and main entrance, along Nevada Street is made up of two sections of brick — one dark gray to represent the "strength and guidance" the university provides for its students and one in varied colors of tan, brown and gray reflecting "the multi-toned hues" of students on campus, Griffin says.

Demolition of the old center is slated to start in late June. The university plans to sell bricks from the old building to raise money for the project.

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