Southern Poverty Law Center, Civil Rights Memorial Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a legal advocacy group that formed in the1970s to support racial tolerance.  This not-for-profit organization opened a Civil Rights Memorial Center at its Montgomery Alabama headquarters to honor those who lost their lives during the Civil Rights Movement and to educate our current population on this tumultuous time period in American history.

Historic time lines, key individuals and specific events are depicted through didactic wall mounted materials and interactive displays.  Layers of illumination include soft general ambient light for navigation, wall wash of super graphics and accent at feature displays.   

Through careful execution of this layering technique - subtle graduated washes of light and spatial transitions are combined with high contrast accents - the exhibition content is dramatically enhanced as well as the visitor’s emotional experience.  In the auditorium, visitors view a short film documenting highlights of the Civil Rights Movement.  To enhance this experience, transitions in lighting scenes are queued with the audio sound track to change in conjunction with key moments in the film. 

The exhibition sequence initiates with dark, heavy tones having dramatic lighting and evolves with increased illumination and lighter tones as time proceeds, symbolically referencing enlightenment with increased social tolerance.  Contrast, time and the visitor’s psychological response were critical design considerations.  The exhibition experience concludes with the large multimedia Wall of Tolerance where visitors dedicate their life to fighting racial injustice. 

Owner: Southern Poverty Law Center
Architect: Goodwyn Mills & Cawood
Lighting Designer: Derek Porter Studio
Photographer: Derek Porter

Montgomery, Alabama
6,500 square feet
Exhibition space, theater, classroom and retail

Regional Illumination Design Award, IESNA, 2008