Neither the city's Parks Department nor Clemson University's architecture students had a concrete idea of how to improve the Corinne Jones Park in Charleston's Wagener Terrace neighborhood.
But after the 10 students homed in on the question during their fall semester, they came up with something fresh.
And since their Studio V course was design-build, their concrete idea ultimately would involve pouring a lot of concrete (and bending steel, working with wooden trusses and recycled glass. etc.)
The city's Corinne Jones Park is an expansive, grassy but mostly empty block flanked by quiet residential streets.
It had a few tennis courts, some basketball goals and brand-new playground equipment, but lacked anything resembling a gathering place or focal point.
The students, led by Clemson architecture lecturer David Pastre, each came up with their own idea about how to change this.
They then folded their 10 plans into three major schemes before distilling them down to a single one.
Their ultimate design includes an earthen berm, expected to be installed soon, that backs up onto a series of 4-foot-long concrete blocks. While some may be used for seating, they also support a wing-shaped wooden and galvanized steel shade structure -- a structure that also supports a few wooden benches.
There's a gap between each of the concrete blocks -- and between the two main truss beams that provide the shade. The angle of the blocks gradually changes --as does the angle of the trusses -- giving it the appearance of a bird's wing.
The Meranti wood will become more gray over time, while the galvanized steel will lose its shine, changing the structure's appearance.
The subtle S-shape of the blocks radiates from the playground's center, though a smaller curve faces the tennis court. It's designed primarily to serve parents watching their children play, but people will be able to sit there and watch tennis, too.
A new curving path, formed with concrete segments in a bed of local recycled glass, draws visitors in from the sidewalk.
The students presented their work last week and recounted the lessons learned as they built their design. "We definitely sympathize with the contractor point of view," one says.
They also were grateful for an experienced concrete worker who happened by their work and informed them that their forms were significantly undersupported. The finished product is handsome, though some concrete did spawl around the holes where the trusses fit in.
The students also researched Corinne Jones, the playground superintendent and the park's namesake. Among other things, they discovered her first name often has been misspelled -- a mistake they took care to avoid as they cast it into concrete blocks.
The whole project cost just under $100,000 and was paid for by the Charleston Parks Conservancy ($35,000), neighborhood donors ($20,000) and the city ($40,000).
There still are a few finishing touches left, including the berm's construction, lighting and some listing of the donors.
The project appears to be a big success, but its real test might come in a few years, as the city and neighborhood ultimately decide whether to build a second phase that the students designed for a nearby basketball court.
That project not only would create similar seating and reinforce this area as Corinne Jones' main gathering spot, but it also would reaffirm the students' creativity and vision.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or email@example.com.