A New LGBTQ Center
By Alex Hogue
Architecture has the power to influence the attitudes and beliefs of members of a community. A building that addresses a specific social need in a society can help to end prejudice by raising awareness for an issue and by providing support to marginalized or discriminated people. This project, therefore, is intended to spread a message about inclusivity and fair treatment of everyone, specifically LGBTQ members. By finding a balance between the form and aesthetic appearance of the design of the building with its intended function, the LGBTQ Pride Center can become an inviting and welcoming space that offers support to LGBTQ people. This project combines the pivotal roles that architecture plays in our society with LGBTQ rights to address this prominent issue the North Carolina community.
Why this issue is important to me
Not only is this issue important to my community in general, but I also have a deep personal connection to the LGBTQ community; I have two mothers. Therefore, I feel greatly affected by all of the social issues faced by LGBTQ people in my own community in North Carolina. I am frustrated by these problems, and I care a lot about this topic, so I want to make some change towards equal treatment of LGBTQ people in both my community, and other communities around the world. Even if I am unable to actually build a pride center, I hope to bring awareness to these issues and spark some change, no matter how small.
In North Carolina, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, commonly referred to as House Bill II was passed in 2016, which states that “Public agencies shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.” This bill directly discriminates against transgender people in North Carolina and has caused extreme outrage and controversy in the state; sexual orientation and gender identity are treated as invalid and not protected from discrimination. While this is the the most extreme case of discrimination in the state, North Carolina also has no laws that prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace or in schools. Therefore, safe and supportive spaces for LGBTQ people are incredibly necessary right now in North Carolina beyond simply gender inclusive bathrooms. This is the inspiration for the design of this Pride Center.
By starting with Durham, one of the most accepting cities in the state, this center can begin by helping LGBTQ members in need of guidance and support. Then, future buildings can be constructed in other, less supportive cities to address this vital need over time as the original center gains awareness. Along with providing a place where LGBTQ people are treated fairly and equally, raising awareness is crucial to providing support to the LGBTQ community. Then, by devoting time, effort, and resources to creating this prominent, physical structure in the middle of downtown Durham for a pride center in a state full of discrimination and prejudice, people will be forced to take notice of the LGBTQ community. Therefore, this building will be the beginning of new focus towards LGBTQ rights that are dramatically lacking in the state. This plan reaches beyond individual action because while people are generally outwordly cordial to LGBTQ people, only a grand statement can make tangible change in the community and force the legislature to take notice.
San Francisco LGBT Center:
New York’s LGBT Community Center:
Excerpt from interview with Alicia, the current Volunteer Coordinator and Operations and Navigation Coordinator:
What are the most crucial elements of a pride center?
“Simply having any space at all is a huge benefit for us in feeling safer and supported in the wider community. It provides a place where we can be seen and heard in all aspects of our whole selves.
When thinking about what are the essential elements of a Pride Center, I always think of the people. The building is only here to support us, and ultimately needs to be flexible to do so.
We aim to support the most marginalized community members in a space that values the contributions of everyone who chooses to be here. Our programming and needs change depending on who is able to bring ideas to fruition and sustain them.”
Excerpt from interview with an LGBTQ member:
How do you want to feel when you walk into a new space? What would make you want to visit a pride center?
“Any new space needs to feel comfortable to folks from all walks of life. Continuing to offer coffee, tea and snacks in reception, having a warm and inviting color scheme, perhaps even a simple feature like ceiling fans, say comfort and ‘you are welcome here’ to guests. Ultimately the thing that draws me to a Center is the services that are offered. And why I keep coming back is a sense that I belong here, and am seen for who I am and who I am becoming.”
Early Research and Plan
LGBT youth, adults, and seniors as well as allies to the community
A community center that provides guidance and support to members of the LGBT community so that everyone can feel safe and open as well as helps to raise awareness for LGBT rights.
Glass (bright, open, welcoming interior space), clean and organized but also organic design with natural materials (sense of safety and comfort like a home so that people want to spend time, relax, and gather to meet people and socialize inside). It should be as inexpensive as possible to build, yet still durable and aesthetically pleasing.
PERSONAL STATEMENT OF INTENT:
Creating a place that provides guidance and support to members of the LGBTQ community is the central focus of this project. The intention is to design a pride center, which is essentially a community center where LGBTQ people can feel safe and free. Raising awareness for LGBTQ rights is another intention of the idea. In response to House Bill 2, the function of the center includes supplying a support group and family for LGBTQ members of the community, providing a safe and open gathering space for people to meet and connect with other members of the community like them, hosting and celebrating cultural events for pride such as parades, and holding fundraisers. This space will also give LGBTQ people access to vital facilities that they may be denied elsewhere due to discrimination. This structure will replace a current underdeveloped LGBTQ center in Durham, North Carolina with a new visually appealing and longer-lasting alternative. The new design should maximize the small plot of land with multifunctional spaces so that it is functional but also is eye-catching, inviting to visitors, and appears to hold a significant place in the community. The structure should combine a modern design with a “homey” feel using a clean and organized but also organic design that resembles a large modernized house. Therefore, people will want to gather, socialize, and relax inside. Creating this visual identity and giving it a sense of significance and purpose in the community is critical. The design should incorporate a lot of glass to create a warm, bright, and open feeling interior. The building should have a stylish interior design that is joyful, has a sense of ease and relaxation, and makes people want to spend time there. Users of the center will include people of all genders and ages, so it must be a suitable and welcoming environment for all.
Existing Site Conditions
White: The current center
Yellow: Small, quiet side street with small businesses and homes that the center is located on
Blue: Direction to downtown Durham
Red: Direction to roads that lead directly into downtown Durham
How the site is currently being used:
The plot of land is very small compared to the surrounding buildings, and the majority of the lot (about ⅗ of the lot) is taken up by the current LGBT center, but there is some extra space in the back. The building is, therefore, right up against the surrounding structures with a small ring of empty space around the building. The building is slightly elevated from the plane of the road, and the lot has a gradual incline from the front to the back. There is a gravel driveway from the street to the back of the building where there is a backyard and a small shed with garage doors. The lot is composed of soil and is very grassy, and there are some trees in the back. There is a front porch with a sidewalk leading up to it. The entire building is surrounded by a fence, and there is a poll on the front right corner of the lot.
The building is used for various services for the LGBTQ community including holding pride events, meetings, and social gatherings, and programs such as support groups. The interior includes two meeting rooms, a library, and a large event room that can hold 32 people.
The location near downtown does add a feeling of significance and prominence to the center. Also, the fact this pride center was once a home and has a unique color (purple), which is an element that makes the building stand out, gives the structure distinct character and its own personality and story. It feels welcoming like a home for this reason.
However, the site feels run down, and in need of renovation and modernization. The building feels insignificant on such a small street surrounded by other larger buildings that make its lot feel congested. The building also feels cluttered as if it needs more attention and organization with a modern design.
List of spaces in the new design:
- Reception space
- Living / hangout space
- Small meeting rooms/ classroom
- Large event/assembly room
- All gender restrooms
- Office space/ counseling space
- Outdoor space
- Porch and patio
Drawings – Schematics
Schematics are part of the first stage of planning and brainstorming. They are the rough drafts.
Drawings – Design Development
During the design development phase, the ideas for the building become more solidified and the models and plans become more specific and complete
Cut-out Floor Plan:
Call To Action
Pay attention to the prejudice and discrimination right in your own neighborhood. Issues with human rights do not only occur in foreign lands but are often disregarded in our own communities. LGBTQ rights are creating significant controversy now in governmental affairs but creating a more welcoming community does not have to begin with law reforms. Simply checking your own bias towards the LGBTQ community can spark gradual change in the treatment of people throughout the entire community, which can create dramatic change. Just like this center provides support and aid to LGBTQ people, be open and supportive towards people who are different from yourself and see the world from differing perspectives. Doing this will ultimately create more inclusive, peaceful, happy communities around the world.