Chavis Community Center – Raleigh Architectural photography

This summer I had the opportunity to work with Raleigh architects, Clearscapes in downtown, for the brand new John Chavis Memorial Park Community Center.  It is an historic park that was a major marker for African-Americans during the Jim Crow era and continues to be integral to the local community today.  The new community center is the heart of upgrades to the park, which includes a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces.

As photographer, I felt my task wasn’t merely to present this vibrant, colorful structure, but comprehensively document its scaling and urban landscaping, how the local community embraced the design, and building’s transformation during the day.  After evaluating the location, I intended to convey resilience, rhythm, energy and tactility.  It’s such a dynamic building for visitors to respond to inside and out and I had some spectacular skies to work with.

I love how the ramp is integrated with the sweeping monument signage that helps balance the looming curve of the second floor mass cantilevered above.

The rhythm of the shading fins spans across the mass without fenestration, visually stitching the entire second floor together. 

While amazing skies aren’t necessarily critical to architectural photography, sometimes they can amplify features of the design such as building materials and how they reflect or absorb light and color.  In the foreground, children enjoy the splash pad while sunset reflects from the glass spanning above.

A formal path and landscaping circle around the splash pad connects to the playground and other amenities beyond.

The former carousel house was converted into a community gathering space, with its contents relocated adjacent to the community center.  Below you can see a girl curiously peaking into the carousel!

Children have an innate tendency to find play in anything.  If they find a pattern on the floor, they’ll skip on it.  If something is soft or plush they’ll squeeze it.  Should an item be within reach, they’ll touch it and if they can pick it up, toss it.

The community center has a playful tactile elements integrated into its form, articulated inside and out and I used children to demonstrate this concept.  The rhythmic nature of the sunshades are emulated on the interior, not only visually, but by touch and inference of sound.  For example, the boy below was naturally drawn to running his hand down the extruded fins of the check-in counter.  Imagine the thump-thump-thump of boy’s hands along the front panel.

That repetition, enabling tactility, hugs the entrance corridor and carries vertically through the rails up and down the grand staircase.

Upon reaching the second floor, visitors are greeted by incredible public art by David Wilson, titled “Chavis Reclaimed”.  Again, children are very prone to touching the half-wall emerging from the staircase, at their eye level.  You can also see the carousel building beyond framed by the windows.

Two gentleman play the grand game of chess in front of the public art.

Stepping outside on the balcony, one can observe splash pad and playground with downtown Raleigh serving as a backdrop.

A new gymnasium with mezzanine level of track above offers multiple opportunities for individuals and group activities.

The local community has really taken to the new park and facilities, especially children.

I really liked how different, yet complimentary the building mass reads along it’s rear.  Here, I focused on how the grand stairs lifts the cantilevered mass above the entry…

…and positioning myself further left, straight-on with the sweeping front and rear masses sweeping to meet at David Wilson’s art installation above.

Was a really fun project and am glad to have the opportunity to photograph work like this!

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