Last month, an editorial about the proposed Clemson Architectural School building [at the corner of George and Meeting streets] asked an important question: Bold design or big mistake? It also indicated that Charleston deserves an excellent building.
To prevent a big mistake, the public and the leadership must be fully informed and diligent in demanding procedures that will produce the best, high quality outcome.
Diligence is most important because two previous designs presented by Clemson have failed. Starting out to fix the flaws in the current design is certainly not the right approach.
This must be a daunting experience for Clemson President James Barker and the university’s board of trustees. The American Institute of Architects guidelines stress the use of collaboration and teamwork to create a positive design climate.
The architect must lead this cooperative effort and carefully consider all of the community’s requirements. The architect evidently did not gain strong support for this design.
One key word in the zoning ordinance is “harmonious.” The word was selected by the city to protect the architectural character of historic neighborhoods.
The Preservation Society of Charleston and the Historic Ansonborough neighborhood have publicly indicated the design is not appropriate for the new site. Important administrative and design questions need thorough clarification.
Also, a new climate for design excellence must be created. The steps are:
1) Terminate all existing contracts. Pay all legitimate bills.
2) Review space requirements, including the building size.
3) Mandate a 2,400-square-foot green garden along George Street.
4) Create a positive design climate that accepts traditional designs along with other styles.
This is Charleston, S.C., perhaps America’s most beautiful historic city. Let the third design effort begin.
Clemson University must aim higher for a high quality, beautiful building.
I’ve included drawings to compare with the current plan. Let’s create a beautiful outcome.
JAMES ROSS JOHNSON JR., AIA
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