A little hut sits near the light rail and the rail trail in South End. You may have seen it.
It actually has a name: the CATS Camden Signal House. It is located at 1903 Camden Road and, according to Adam Rhew, Director of Communications at Charlotte Center City Partners, houses the electronics needed to operate the LYNX Blue Line train signal system along that section of the light rail.
It’s technically a work of art, too.
The building has been there since the Blue Line opened in 2007, but it was just a gray structure until a few years ago. Enter, the CATS Art in Transit program, which chose local artist/designer Leigh Brinkley to treat the Signal House exterior.
“They thought that I could tackle something that meant something to the neighborhood,” said Brinkley, who has been working in the South End/uptown area since the 1980s. She said she watched redevelopment spark up in South End with the revamping of the Design Center of the Carolinas and Atherton Mill and Market.
“I have always been part of what I call urban renewal,” said Brinkley, whose design business is now located at Camden Village West.
So fixing up the Signal House in 2012 was a natural role for her.
Her design was inspired in part by her understanding that Camden Road was considered the main street of South End by Tony Pressley of MECA Properties, which played a leadership role with the South End Development Corporation (now Historic South End).
Brinkley said she thought it would be cool to let people know when they were actually in South End — hence the double signage on the structure’s roof that reads “SOUTHEND.”
I told her I thought it looked theme-park-esque, or circus-y.
“South End has that kind of quirky vibe and there’s people in all sorts of creative businesses,” she said.
She picked the lettering to bridge the gap between old and new. Meanwhile, the pattern for the walls of the building was inspired by textile designs she looked through, to honor Charlotte’s textile heritage.
The wavy lines are meant to soften the hardscape of sidewalk and street, and the long body of the building.
Of the design overall, she said, “It softens and funks up what I felt represented the neighborhood at that time … It’s a hybrid of old and new and industrial and sophisticated. …That’s what I think South End is about.”
Photos: Katie Toussaint