By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 6, 2014

The two upwardly sweeping panes of curved glass reaching 32 feet into the sky will lift the hearts and minds of visitors approaching the new Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Etched into the two panes of glass are quotes from two internationally renowned leaders — Margaret Mead and Nelson Mandela — and water will ripple down the glass. So as people walk beneath and through the glass sculpture, they will be able to absorb the words in what will be a new defining place for Atlanta.

Rendering of the water feature in front of the Center (Special from the Center for Civil and Human Rights)
Rendering of the water feature in front of the Center (Special from the Center for Civil and Human Rights)

“It may end up being the most photographed view of the Center,” said Doug Shipman, president and CEO of the Center, which will have its opening celebration on June 23.

The sculpture has recently been installed on what is still an active construction site. It is located adjacent to the Georgia Aquarium on Ivan Allen Plaza along Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard near Centennial Olympic Park Drive.

At that point, the Center stands at 72 feet with the 32-foot-high sculpture acting as a gateway to the project. “It’s in scale,” Shipman said. “It actually has a nice relationship in proportion to the building.”

The sculpture was an “add on” to the project at the strong urging of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who felt the Center needed a water feature to beautify the public space around it.

Rendering of the water feature
Rendering of the water feature

“Isn’t it amazing?” Reed said on June 3 after having seen the sculpture. “I don’t think that the process or the end result could have been better. The decision around the water feature was unanimous. It’s a real addition to the city.”

The two etched quotes are as follows:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.” – Margaret Mead

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who championed the building of the Center and serves as chair of its board, endorsed the selection of both of those quotes.

“I love Margaret Mead, and I love Nelson Mandela,” Franklin said during a visit to the Center on June 3. “Their lives were inspirational.”

The water feature was designed by Larry Kirkland of the Greater Washington, D.C., area, who was selected from a national design competition by a local committee of architects, designers and civic leaders headed by Barbara Faga. Other members of Kirkland’s team included: Fluidity Design Consultants LLC, which did the fountain design; and Joel Straus Consulting Ltd., which has served as the project manager.

The water feature ended up costing $1.25 million, with $1 million of that expense being covered by a grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

Maria Saporta, executive editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state. From 2008 to 2020, she wrote weekly columns...

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