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Charlotte Civil Center, 1973

101 South College Street

 

The massive 1973 Charlotte Civic Center occupies an entire city block bordered by East Trade, South College, and East Fourth streets, and is bordered by the Southern Railroad to the east.   From street level  the building appears as a series of large tall and blank sections of white masonry wall, veneered with oversized ceramic brick,  interrupted  by a series of narrow recesses.   The largely blank walls are topped by a deep terrace, which is in turn sheltered by a flat slab roof.  From above, the relative symmetry and horizontal nature of the building are apparent, as are the Civic Center's most notable architectural feature, a group of nine glass and metal pyramids.

 

The Civic Center defies typical building form in several ways.  The building consists of two tall stories and has two main entrances, each located in one of the building's corners.  These entrances are deeply recessed, sheltering an angled bank of six tall glazed doors set in a metal frame.  Each door is topped with a tall fixed glazed panel.   The site slopes down from south to north with the southern entrance slightly below grade and the north entrance accessed by a low set of steps.  The terrace sections above the recessed entrances is supported by a massive concrete posts.

 

The ceilings over the entrances has been removed exposing many of the structural details of the building.   Reinforced concrete beams radiate from the column, supporting the reinforced slab of the second floor.  Concrete beams integrated into this slab along the exterior walls support a steel frame upon which the masonry skirt-wall sections above the entrances are suspended.  Also exposed is the concrete block construction of the building's  exterior curtain walls.  

Entrance Ceiling Detail

4th Street Entrance

College Street Elevation

 

The College Street elevation is symmetrical and composed of five wide bays separated by narrow recesses, with the entrances occupying the outer bays.  Despite the prominent and public nature of this elevation, the center bay contains four loading dock entrances, recessed below the second story slab floor.  Each entrance is  filled by a large metal rolling door.  An enclosed elevated walkway is centered on the elevation, connecting to the open terrace of the second story.   Massive posts extend trough the terrace.  The posts end in integrated angled brackets , which support the roof deck.  The posts are painted a dark grey, and the exterior brick walls along the terrace are painted black, to contrast with the bright white masonry of the lower walls, and to give depth to the terrace.  Banks of windows alternate with blank brick walls along the terrace.  The roof deck is surrounded by a deep metal panel freeze, also white.   The paneled freeze features subtle decorative recessed panel sections where the posts meets the roof deck.  

 Fourth Street Entrance

  Trade Street Elevation

 

The Fourth and Trade Street elevations are similar.  On each elevation eight bays are separated by seven narrow recesses.  With the exception of the entrances on college street, the bays are largely blank expanses of white brick.  Because of the dramatic slope of the site, the walls become more massive near the rear elevation, with heights of about 50'.  Each elevation is pierced by two wide parking deck entrances that access the basement levels of the building.  Most of the recesses along Fourth and Trade streets contain paired metal exit doors that allow for evacuation of the building.   Each of the recesses is lit by modernist sconces.  Four widely spaced bracketed posts support the roof.  The rear elevation extends one bay past the roofline.