One hundred years from now, people will still be talking about the Clemson Architecture School building at the corner of George and Meeting streets. Charleston does, after all, care passionately about its built environment.
But it's today's voices that could shape what that building will look like. And a good opportunity to speak to Clemson's plans will be at the Charleston Board of Architectural Review meeting at 4:30 p.m.
It should be a lively discussion. While architects have tweaked the plans since they last appeared before the BAR, the concept is the same. And it's not something neighbors like.
Indeed, boards of both the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association and the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association voted unanimously to oppose the plans. The Preservation Society of Charleston also has serious concerns that the building will not be compatible with its surroundings.
The Historic Charleston Foundation, however, sees merit in the design and placement.
And the BAR earlier approved its size and scale.
All should agree that the corner, which is on the prominent north-south corridor serving downtown Charleston, deserves an exquisite structure.
Of course, one person's idea of "exquisite" can be far different from another's.
And Charleston has been accused of resisting modern design, leaving new construction to mimic what already exists or be merely watered-down modern.
The challenge for the BAR is to be open to new design, but not to roll over and accept a design just because an architect says it is good.
Actually, this is the second building proposed for the Clemson architecture program. The first, nearby on George Street, was scrapped because neighbors complained that it was too big for a small lot.
In an opinion piece in The Post and Courier in December, Steve Gates and Randy Pelzer of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, along with Angela Drake of the Historic Ansonborough Association, called for the BAR to reject the current proposal that is "so incongruous with the prevailing character of our neighborhoods."
Its architects, on the other hand, see the building as being similar in "rhythm and proportion" to Charleston's architecture.
They contend that the concrete "shade walls," which are pierced to let in indirect light but keep out direct light, are somehow reminiscent of Charleston's traditional shading and shuttering. But one member of the BAR saw the shaded south facade as reminiscent of two big lips.
Charleston is acclaimed as one of the country's most beautiful cities with some of its most historically significant architecture. The corner of George and Meeting streets demonstrates the good, the bad and the ordinary. For example, the lot where Clemson would build was the site of an imposing mansion until it was replaced by a single-story brick building that is out of character with those around it.
The next building on that corner must be of a superior design that respects its surroundings. The BAR will be better able to make a sound decision with input from the people who will live with it every day.