Founder's vision of a pyramid will rise at Africentric
As promised at a school board meeting last year by Columbus Africentric Early College founder Charles Tennant, the "Nubian pyramid" is set to rise outside the gleaming new East Side campus that opened in January — although smaller, more modern and on a different location than the vision that inspired it.
Some construction unions have volunteered to build the structure and donate the materials. The current rendering shows a 10-foot, metal pyramid crowned by a foot-tall ankh, the ancient Egyptian symbol for eternal life that resembles a cross with a loop on top.
Kay Onwukwe, lead architect of the Africentric campus project, said the ankh might be replaced by a glass cap that lights up at night. Base lights will make the pyramid appear to be "floating" six to 10 inches off the ground at night, Onwukwe said.
Onwukwe said he tried to honor Tennant's vision while reducing the cost down to $150,000 to $250,000, all donated by the unions.
"He wanted to make it out of brick, stone, something that has some dignity and stability," Onwukwe said. "I tried to convince him that the engineering work would be more expensive."
In 2016, Tennant told the school board at a meeting that the new school should have a Nubian pyramid. Ancient Nubia, in the Nile valley, was known for its gold and military prowess. Their pyramids, smaller, narrower and steeper than Egyptian pyramids, still stand.
The school's sports teams are nicknamed the Nubians.
Tennant told The Dispatch in December that the idea came to him in a vision; he saw a 15-foot pyramid, "and it's going to light up at night."
While not exactly what he described, the proposal is great, said Tennant, who championed the creation of the school and has influenced its design.
"It's kind of an abstract version," he said.
"We have some liberty with this. It's an art project," said Rich Manley, training director with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 189, which is donating materials and welders. The steel to be used is a type that purposefully rusts before a coating is applied to stop further rusting, giving it a reddish-brown look. It will be etched to resemble stone blocks.
"It will have almost like a dull shine to it," said Jeff Carey, a welder and business agent with the Pipefitters Local 189.
Electricians and carpenters unions also are participating in the project, and it's possible that district vocational students pursuing trades careers will help build the pyramid, said Scott Varner, spokesman for Columbus City Schools. But the tight schedule — trying to complete it before the start of school in the fall — might limit student help, he said.
The new, $40 million Africentric K-12 campus opened in January on a 52-acre site about a half-mile southeast of John Glenn Columbus International Airport, and includes the first new high school built by the district since Mifflin High School opened in 1977 and the district's largest sports arena. The school relocated there from its old site near German Village, where it had operated since 1996.
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