Menefee Architecture | Southern Education Foundation
Menefee Architecture: We are Architects, Interior Designers, and Leaders in Sustainability and Innovation with a core leadership who has worked closely together for more than a decade in a creative, collaborative studio environment
Menefee Architecture, Architecture, Planning, Design, LEED, Architects, Atlanta, Georgia

Southern Education Foundation


Southern Education Foundation – Atlanta Headquarters


The Southern Education Foundation relocation coincided with the organization’s 150th anniversary inspiring a celebration of the past and a refreshing look to the future of education equity. The new location required offices, conference spaces, and a large collaborative space with a break area for staff, Ambassador training, and visitors. The entire space reflects SEF’s Mission and Vision with butt-glazed partitions accommodating seamless graphics to tell their story with inspiring words and images.  The project was awarded a Community Design Award by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission.

Reaching its 150th year, the organization realized the need for a collaborative and interactive office space that would activate the environment and energize staff. Founded in 1867 as the George Peabody Education Fund, the Southern Education Foundation’s mission is to ensure equity and excellence in education for all students in the South, particularly low income students and students of color. SEF envisions a world where every student, regardless of background, enjoys an education that propels them toward the opportunity-rich life they deserve.

Menefee Architecture applied sustainable design in specifying preconsumer recycled flooring materials, low VOC paint, Energy Star appliances, and LED lighting througout. The office partitions and ceiling grid align with the exterior curtain wall verticals. Office and lounge furniture, including Humanscale sit-stand desks and powered tables, were thoughtfully selected for SEF’s collaborative and active work environment. White walls and a full height glass corridor provide a blank canvas for graphic storytelling. Signature Design was tasked to tell SEF’s story as an immersive and energizing experience.

In the process of researching SEF’s history, Signature Design discovered there was a common theme of “Literacy” , the key element in education. Informed by this, design concepts explored the importance of literacy and the written word. As if cut from pages of a book, strips of language rhythmically overlap on two large walls in the collaborative working spaces, providing three dimensional strips of inspirational language. The strips are lettered with quotes about the power of education by leaders ranging from Frederick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois, to Oprah Winfrey.

Signature Design used the office corridor to illustrate the theme “The Southern Education Foundation Celebrates 150 years: Honoring its Past with a Vision for the Future”. A photo collage, made of archival images of the first black schools for teachers and students, was applied to the glazing that spans the length of the corridor. The background is constructed of historic graphics in black and white, while the front side places students of today in color.

Photo Credit | John Clemmer Photography