Shabazz Center: Design for Mind, Body, & Soul

Morgan Jourdin
Haeun Heather Park
Atalia Fragoletti
The new Shabazz center will carry on Malcolm and Betty’s pursuit of human rights. By embracing underrepresented communities, and providing a safe space for the exchange of knowledge and culture, the design hopes to recenter the world upon Malcolm and Betty’s ideals for the wealth of one’s mind, body, and soul.


Our site is the old Audubon Theatre, built in 1912 on 168th and Broadway in the Harlem/Washington Heights area. Malcolm X hosted meetings for the Organization of Afro American Unity in the theater’s ballroom, which is also the site of his assassination in 1965. After years of abandonment and interference by Columbia University, the remains of the theater were reclaimed to become the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. The center is a cultural and educational institution aiming to incubate social, racial, and global justice movements rooted in the humanitarian efforts of Malcolm, and the educational vision of Betty. We sought to re-imagine the design of the center, which includes the expansion of its programs into three other nearby sites.


The new Shabazz center will carry on Malcolm and Betty's pursuit of human rights by embracing underrepresented communities, and providing a safe space for the exchange of knowledge and culture.

The design hopes to create a world re-centered upon Malcolm and Betty's ideals for the wealth of one's mind, body, and soul.

The building itself is uniquely positioned to embrace the Shabazz Center's vision. It is both a memorial and community center that connects culture and education, providing a truly impactful experience.


We sought to introduce our stakeholders via theoretical testimonies of our project's users, exploring possible experiences of global, regional, and local engagement.


Our visual concept pulls from key elements of the culture, architecture, and geography of Northern Africa, Western Asia (Middle East), and Harlem, NYC


Programs for education and culture are connected through the heart of the building, Malcolm’s memorial.


They've been categorized together on three axes, prompting the expansion of the design into a nearby annex building, and two public outdoor spaces. This categorization informed the way we sought to organize the space.



Main Building Floor Plans (Basement, Street Level, Second Flr)

Annex Floor Plans (Street level, Basement)


SHIFTING VISION: Located on the median outside the Shabazz Center's main building, this is a movement provoking mural installation representative of the couple's political activism and candid moments.

ENTRY HALL: To honor the historical architectural elements of this space, we opted to simply add a welcome desk to the entry hall. The form of the desk in plan pays homage to the crescent of the new moon hilāl, which is a repeating motif in the Muslim religion.

FAMILY STORY: Located just north of the Audubon Ballroom, this permanent memorial is an interactive look into the story of Malcolm, Betty, and the rest of the Shabazz family.


Symbolism of testament to faith ; represents a fundamental concept of Islam as one of the five pillars. Reflects the beauty and simplicity of Islam.

Customed designed furniture pieces for this project Inspired by arabic traditional seating called 'majilis'. Blending a mix of patterns and textures, the space marries vintage and contemporary styles with a bold, rich color palette featuring deep reds, greens, and oranges. Natural elements like wood and plants infuse warmth and comfort, making the space vibrant, welcoming, and eye-catching to the public.

The aesthetic and materiality of the new Shabazz Center should feel approachable, vibrant and inviting, while also providing a sense of luxury. The common thread of all aesthetic choices should be that this space is a respectful homage to Malcolm and Betty within the community and culture that they fought for.


THREAD GALLERY: A public exhibition space at the South end of the main building's ground floor. The space promotes local artists and celebrates the community's cultural history. The gallery will collaborate with artists and historians to create inclusive exhibits and events, showcasing the vibrant and diverse traditions of Harlem's residents.

Breaking away from the formal and quiet atmosphere typical of art galleries, the redesigned space emphasizes a celebrative, fun, casual, and welcoming ambiance. To counteract the pressured and uncomfortable feeling that can detract from art enjoyment, the design incorporates the principle of curves, featuring curved walls, flowing benches, and a piano for visitors to interact with, fostering community engagement. These design choices not only promote longer stays and enhanced art appreciation but also celebrate local artists and Harlem's diverse cultural heritage, all while maintaining muted, cold, and neutral tones.

CAFE LIBRARY: Just South of the Entry Hall, the Shabazz Cafe Library is a means of educating locals about the non-western world, and directly supporting female owned coffee farms in Africa.

BALLROOM: Our client expressed interest in using the Ballroom as a flex space, to further invite the community in. We're proposing a curtain track system and temporary stage be available, opening the space to performance artists around the neighborhood.

HONORING MALCOLM: Taking inspiration from the beautiful metalwork of North Africa, a brass inlaid epitaph for Malcolm will be applied to the floor in the place he was assassinated. Thin brass “veining” will be inlaid around the ballroom, forming a path that circulates back to the epitaph. 

Installation of a recessed spot beam will serve as an adjustable addition to the memorial.


CREATOR'S LAB: Occupying the basement of the main building, this lab is a resource for locals to explore the creative aspects of themselves. The space will offer a podcast/music recording studio, photography classes, dark room, computer lab, VR space, and screening room.


EMPOWERMENT CENTER: In honor of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali's famous friendship, the country's first introduction to a fusion between sports and politics in culture. The space draws inspiration from Malcolm's position on self defense, and Ali's representation of both physical and mental strength. Programming for physical empowerment, mental support, and socio-political activation have been explored.


REFLECTION LIBRARY: A testament to the center's commitment to promoting self-engagement and reflection. The park will provide visitors an opportunity to connect with the teachings of civil rights leaders and to apply those teachings in their personal lives through independent study and community activation.

One of the activities that will be offered in the park is the "Letter to Myself" program. Here we invited the user to write a letter to their future self, describing how they hope to manifest what they learn at the center into their daily lives. The act of physically writing down these hopes promotes personal accountability, encouraging them to make positive changes in their lives.