Harvey Gantt, FAIA, has become synonymous with civic leadership throughout the southeast, particularly in his home state North Carolina. He remains a source of inspiration for architects of all backgrounds following a lifelong commitment to civil rights, political activism, public service, and socially-conscious architecture.
Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Gantt became involved in civil rights activism as early as high school, which would continue to take form throughout his career. In 1963, following a lengthy court case aimed at breaking the color barrier in the state’s educational institutions, Gantt became Clemson University's first black student. He graduated third in his architecture class..
From 1965 to 1970, Harvey chose to pursue his new career in Charlotte, North Carolina, working as an architect for large firms in the city before moving away to complete a Master of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1971, Gantt returned to Charlotte to open Gantt Huberman Architects with Jeff Huberman. A pioneer in blending urban
planning with the practice of architecture, Gantt Huberman employed a diverse group of professionals who were charged with designing buildings that encourage community. As a result, the firm has developed some of Charlotte’s most iconic landmarks, including the Charlotte Transportation Center, TransAmerica Square, ImaginOn, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and the Johnson C. Smith University Science Center. The firm won numerous local, regional and national design awards. In 2006, AIA North Carolina presented Gantt Huberman with its highest honor for outstanding service, the 2006 Firm Award.
While significant, Gantt’s legacy in North Carolina extends far beyond improving the built environment. He joined Charlotte City Council in 1974 and again broke barriers when he was elected Charlotte’s first Black mayor in 1983. Remaining in office for two terms, Gantt worked with other Charlotte leaders committed to establishing a New South City, placing a great deal of emphasis on planning, revitalization of the inner city, housing and managed growth.
In June of 1990, Harvey Gantt was chosen as the North Carolina Democratic Party's candidate for the U.S. Senate in a statewide election that soon gained nationwide attention. Gantt was not only attempting to become the South's first Black senator since Reconstruction, he was also attempting to unseat one of the country’s most conservative voices in the Senate, Jesse Helms. While unsuccessful in winning the election itself, Gantt received widespread recognition for the platform he ran on. Among the many he inspired throughout his political career is President Barack Obama who sent him a picture of himself in a Gantt political t-shirt with the note “To Harvey – an early inspiration!”.
In 2009 the former Afro-American Cultural Center opened its doors to a new, award-winning facility and was renamed the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. He also received AIA National’s 2013 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award as well as AIA North Carolina’s 2017 Gold Medal. Throughout his career, Harvey Gantt has been laying the foundation for future architects of color throughout North Carolina to succeed and lead in practice and in their communities. Thanks to him, and many other leaders who have followed in his footsteps, young people of color can see their examples and find their own path forward in architecture, design, and civic leadership.
Featured Project Name:
Charlotte Transportation Center
Featured Project Location:
Charlotte, North Carolina
Featured Project Completion Date:
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