The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has selected Harvey B. Gantt, FAIA, as the 2013 recipient of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award. Established in 1972, the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award honors architects and organizations that champion a range of social issues, including affordable housing, minority inclusion and access for persons with disabilities. Gantt is being recognized for his efforts as a noted civil rights pioneer, public servant and award-winning architect.
More about Gantt after the break…
In 1963, after a protracted court case, Gantt entered Clemson University as its first African-American student. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Clemson in 1965, graduating third in his class.
After college, Gantt relocated to Charlotte, where he began his career at Odell Associates. In 1970, he earned a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The next few years brought varied opportunities to Gantt, who served as a lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as a visiting critic at Clemson as well as working with civil rights activist Floyd B. McKissick as a planner for Soul City, N.C., an experimental community in a rural site north of Durham, N.C. Soon after, Gantt returned to Charlotte to found Gantt Huberman Architects with Jeffrey Huberman, FAIA.
In 1974, Gantt was appointed to fill a seat on the Charlotte City Council vacated by Fred Alexander, then the council’s only African-American member. Gantt went on to be elected to one of the council’s citywide seats. In 1983, Gantt was elected Charlotte’s mayor, the first African-American to hold that position. During his two terms as mayor, he focused on programs to preserve old neighborhoods and the city center, and was instrumental in bringing the city a new professional basketball franchise.
“Architects are well aware of the importance of informed and effective leadership in government, but few of us are willing or able to take on this significant role,” Freelon Group founder Philip Freelon, FAIA, wrote in reference to Gantt’s career. “Harvey not only embraced this challenge but demonstrated remarkable courage and leadership. His service to this emerging city during a time of critical growth put Charlotte on a positive economic and social trajectory that continues today and into the future.”
Gantt was also active in statewide Democratic Party politics, becoming the party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1990 and 1996 against the outspoken conservative Sen. Jesse Helms. Although he lost both races, he remained committed to public service. In 1995, he accepted an appointment by President Clinton to serve as chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission.
“Harvey’s run for statewide office helped set the course for young African-American leaders who wanted to become more engaged in the political process,” President Obama told the Charlotte Observer in 2012. “His decision to enter the race showed great courage and a strong commitment.”
At Clemson University’s convocation in 2012, Gantt said that as an elected official, “I saw firsthand the importance of solving problems and building a stronger community by engaging as much diversity as possible, by blending neighborhood leaders with business leaders, or academicians with politicians, or Democrats with Republicans, or conservatives with liberals, to find that elusive common ground needed to move the needle and to bring about progress.” Gantt added, “It’s the story of my life.”
This award honors civil rights leader Whitney M. Young Jr., proponent of social change and head of the Urban League from 1961 until his death in 1971. At the 1968 AIA Annual Convention, Young challenged architects to more actively increase participation in the profession by minorities and women.
You can see image of Gantt and learn more about his career here.
Press release via AIA.