(Greenville, SC) —The South Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIASC) presented Michael Allen, AIA, founder and CEO of MOA Architecture, the 2021 Social Justice Award during the annual meeting held virtually on Dec. 9. Allen was recognized for his work to eliminate inequities in the built environment with the Echo Theater project in Laurens, S.C.
“The Social Justice Award recognizes individuals and organizations who are advancing social justice within the built environment,” said Gene Bell, president of AIASC. “Michael’s work at the Echo Theater clearly illustrates the power of good design. This project will reimagine a place with such a dark past and transform it for a bright future.”
The historic building was once a segregated movie theater and later became an infamous Ku Klux Klan museum and American Nazi Party hub and meeting space. Now under the ownership of The Echo Project and New Beginnings Missionary Baptist Church, the building is becoming a center for diversity, a place of remembrance, and space for hope.
“The Echo Project is transforming into a place where every race can be respected, a place where diversity is not just talked about, it is celebrated through action…a place where we teach that racism and hate are both destructive and have no future, but love is constructive, and it has a future,” said Reverend David Kennedy, president of The Echo Project and pastor of New Beginnings Missionary Baptist Church.
Allen also hopes that the redesigned building will catalyze truth and reconciliation.
“To be a part of a project that you can use architecture and inflict change at the same time is huge for me. MOA Architecture is proud to be a part of the team working to change the narrative of hate in the community of Laurens and beyond,” said Allen.