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Ayers Saint Gross’s The Pearl District combines Wake Forest medical school, research hub, mixed-use civic space

A rendering of the street view approaching Research 1 (left), the tiered plaza, and the Howard R. Levine Center for Education in The Pearl innovation district. Image courtesy of Ayers Saint Gross

Design firm Ayers Saint Gross’s new project, The Pearl, is a groundbreaking innovation district poised to bring the first four-year medical school — Wake Forest University School of Medicine – to Charlotte, NC, along with a 331,000SF research building for major health sciences innovators developed in partnership with Atrium Health and Wexford Science & Technology. Set to open in 2025, the district will provide over 3 million square feet of mixed-use space, creating a new civic hub and an inclusive community centered on medical education and innovation, while reducing the shortage of doctors working in underserved areas of North Carolina.

Ranked amongst the nation’s top five university building architecture firms in 2023, Ayers Saint Gross is an award-winning interdisciplinary design firm of architects, planners, landscape architects, interior designers, graphic designers and space analysts known for their exemplary work across higher education campuses — such as Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, and Arizona State University — along with notable health sciences and cultural projects ranging from the Mayo Clinic to long-standing work for the National Aquarium and Smithsonian Institution.

A rendering of an interior view of “The Forum” gathering space within the Howard R. Levine Center for Education. Image courtesy of Ayers Saint Gross

Introducing: The Pearl Innovation District in Charlotte, North Carolina

Responsible for the exterior design, master plan and landscape architecture, Ayers Saint Gross collaborated with CO Architects, which spearheaded the interior design, and Neighboring Concepts on local advisory, for the following buildings that anchor the district.

The Howard R. Levine Center for Education

A rendering of an auditorium within the Howard R. Levine Center for Education. Image courtesy of Ayers Saint Gross

Coined the Howard R. Levine Center for Education, this 393,000SF, 15-floor academic building will be home to the second location of Wake Forest School of Medicine, in conjunction with the Atrium Health Campus. The building features two distinct, contrasting façades ranging from highly transparent to solid, terracotta panels, with its interiors embracing soft edges and curvilinear forms, featuring a central gathering and presentation space, “The Forum,” along with a 250-seat auditorium, a 200-person flexible learning studio, classrooms, and a café.

Research Building 1

A ground-level rendering of Research 1, the tiered plaza, and the Howard R. Levine Center for Education at The Pearl. Image courtesy of Ayers Saint Gross

Research Building 1 will serve as a 10-floor, multi-tenant hub for major health sciences innovators. Public spaces include an assembly space with a range of seating areas, and meeting rooms. The facility contrasts the look of the Center for Education, featuring robust, angular lines fortified by concrete walls and bronze baffles.

Central Plaza

The Levine Center for Education and Research Building 1 will be joined together by a significant central plaza to promote gathering at different scales. Designed by Ayers Saint Gross, the plaza will be organized in a series of terraces with gardens integrating regional materials and local plantings. The space also acts as an outdoor museum through art installations that pay homage to the legacy of Brooklyn; the thriving, historically Black neighborhood that existed at the site in the early 1900s.

Find out more about The Pearl Innovation District at Ayers Saint Gross.