Did You Know?: Black Cultural Center architecture

September 25, 2015  

Black Cultural Center

The brick exterior of the center, characterized by a geometric pattern, was developed after studying traditional patterns used in various forms of African art. It is based on a design used in wall mats found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire.(Purdue University/ Mark Simons)
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Upon first glance at Purdue's Black Cultural Center, one wouldn't immediately recognize the significance of the structure. The building, though beautifully designed, is for the most part inconspicuous among the rest of the structures lining Third Street. According to center director Renee Thomas, that's exactly what was intended.

"We worked very closely with the designer, Blackburn Architects, because we wanted to design it in such a way that if a student was just walking by, they may not even pick up on the African architectural elements," Thomas said. "But we also wanted to be able to share that story."

That story becomes clear upon a closer look. A photo gallery of the details is available here. From the front desk shaped like the bow of a ship (a tribute to those who crossed in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade), to the wrought iron balcony railing on the second floor (an homage to enslaved African blacksmiths), the center is chock-full of cultural and historical influence, providing guests a greater understanding of African heritage and the black experience at Purdue.

"Just looking at it, you may have no idea of the significance," Thomas noted. "But when you hear the backstory, it becomes very meaningful."

Writer: Anna Schultz, 812-447-5229, schult70@purdue.edu 

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