Andy J. Scott

Harvey B. Gantt, FAIA
Principal, Gantt Huberman Architects
“I’m happy to know that this is going to give other Negroes an opportunity to go to Clemson,” a 20-year-old Harvey Gantt told The New York Times in 1962, when he became the first African-American student to enroll in the South Carolina school. “But my main purpose here,” he continued, “is to get an education.” Gantt, who grew up in a Charleston, S.C., housing project, graduated third in his class and received a master’s in urban planning from M.I.T. In 1971, he partnered with Jeffrey Huberman to found North Carolina’s first racially integrated architecture firm—a time, he recalls, when “there were few African-American architects, period.” In 1968, Gantt had worked with civil-rights activist Floyd McKissock as a planner for Soul City, a visionary though ill-fated community for minorities and the poor outside Raleigh, N.C. “It was just too much of an experiment for the private sector to step up,” he says. Appointed to Charlotte’s City Council in 1975, he became the city’s first African-American mayor in 1983. “I thought that architects were uniquely qualified to solve problems in cities—dealing with developers, stimulating private investments, maintaining a downtown,” he says. In 1995, after Gantt’s first of two unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaigns against Jesse Helms, President Bill Clinton appointed him the chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission, which adopted plans for the World War II and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials during his tenure. “I think back to what Whitney Young said to architects back in 1968,” Gantt says. “There’s a role for us to play. So many urban areas lack leadership, and it’s so important to build memorable places, beautiful cities—not just for the wealthy, but for the whole community. Those words make even more sense today.”

Steven Spurlock, FAIA (chair) Wnuck Spurlock Architecture, Washington, D.C.; James Binkley, FAIA Reston, Va.; Brian F. Cavanaugh, AIA Architecture Building Culture, Portland, Ore.; Aisha Densmore-Bey, Assoc. AIA Aisha Densmore-Bey, Designer, Boston; Lonnie Hoogeboom, AIA Houston Downtown Management District, Houston