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The Ethel Hedgemon Lyle Museum for African American Women

St. Louis, MO, United States

The Ethel Hedgemon Lyle Museum for African American Women is sought to serve as an educational project that will tell the story of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. Our initial intention is to develop a sense of familiarity, a sense of “being home”. Preserving the front façade of the building is crucial to the identity and foundation of the museum. By maintaining the north front, we cultivate an experience similar to entering a home, as if one were entering and visiting Ethel and the members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Incorporated. In tandem, preserving the façade and using the home’s original profile as a frame of reference allows for the continuation of Ethel’s Legacy while also cementing the fundamental building blocks of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority inc. What was once the home of Ethel will be transformed into a one story, 35’ tall and roughly 3,100 square feet gallery space.

The project will include a lobby entrance with few office spaces, an open floor plan for exhibition space, a communal seating area for gathering/multipurpose usage and an outdoor space meant to be utilized for congregation/community.

Through the extraction of the building’s existing historical context and the implementation of an innovative design, we develop a transition from the past to the present. The building’s form serves as a natural guide through the space, mimicking Ethel’s guiding force for the “Twenty Pearls” and black women through her establishment of the AKA’s. A lift is proposed in the back of the building connecting the seating area with the main floor. The architectural language of the side profile changes where the building starts to elevate, a cant occurs creating an angled roof. The outdoor space is meant to be utilized as a garden space as well as a space for community engagement. Our overall intention with the museum is to provide a space where marginalized and neglected individuals/communities are welcomed, supported, recognized, and serviced, which is in conjunction to how the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. supported black women all over the world.


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