MOA Architecture receives Social Justice Award from AIA South Carolina

December 16, 2021

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.


About MOA Architecture, Inc.

MOA Architecture, Inc. is a full-service architecture, interiors, and planning firm. Beginning with stakeholder engagement and continuing through construction completion, MOA provides guidance and support through a comprehensive design process to create functional, inclusive and sustainable built environments. For more information, visit


About The Echo Project

The Echo Project is a nonprofit organization founded in 2019 by South Carolina Civil Rights Activist Reverend David Kennedy, members of New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church and residents of Laurens County, South Carolina. True to the vision of Reverend Kennedy and members of his church and community, The Echo Project is beginning renovation and construction at the Echo Theater to create an inclusive multicultural initiative that embodies the transformative powers of reconciliation and tolerance. Once the building renovation is complete, the NEW Echo Theater will house a world-class museum and an in-person and online education center that will share the untold history of racial violence, the struggle for civil rights, and the power bestowed on communities through tolerance, justice and racial reconciliation. Learn more at