Some of world’s top talent has been assembled over the past five years to plan the National Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point, and it’s now time for Mount Pleasant Town Council to approve the revised design.
Yes, the bold structure that acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie wants to put on Mount Pleasant’s waterfront is a striking design, but it fits well alongside the Yorktown and Ravenel Bridge and against the backdrop of current of planned buildings, as shown in several renderings presented Tuesday at a third public forum aimed at building consensus for the concept.
The main pavilion will rise only slightly higher than the tree line, and much of the rest of the museum complex — a terraced building topped with grass — will recede into the landscape and be nearly invisible.
Some Mount Pleasant town officials — most notably Mayor Will Haynie — have worried that granting a height variance for the nearly 100-foot-tall museum would set a precedent that would make it hard to deny similar requests. Mr. Haynie is right to be cautious about granting variances in the fast-growing town. But the museum is a once-in-a-lifetime project, and certainly the Town Council has the authority to make the variance a one-time exception.
Other critics simply don’t like the bold, modern design. But surveys taken over the summer show they’re in the minority. The main reason the architect didn’t completely redo his design earlier was because the public response at the first public meeting showed strong support for it, except for the then-planned 125-foot height.
Museums exist to house history, to interpret it and preserve it for future generations. What goes into them is important, but not nearly as important of what comes out — people with a refined sense of self because they better understand who they are and where they came from. It’s the experience that counts.
And so it will be with the National Medal of Honor Museum, as it will be with the International African American Museum at Gadsden’s Wharf. It’s important that the latter is being built on hallowed ground. And it’s important that the Medal of Honor Museum be built at Patriots Point, which was established to “preserve the living history of our nation’s bravest men and women.”
But competing interests have so far gotten the better of the individuals and entities entrusted to move the MOH Museum past ‘go.’ And that has hamstrung fundraising and other work, including the realignment of Patriots Point Road.
Now, Mayor Haynie — he was not among the four council members who attended the design forum Tuesday night — has asked for a timeout to come up with a less costly, alternate design that would “ensure the project’s success.” He was meeting with stakeholders Wednesday and said he expected the council to “work diligently to make this museum a reality, whatever it takes.”
Museum CEO Joe Daniels has agreed to wait about month before submitting the revised design, one he’s confident about and the public appears to support. As mayor, Mr. Haynie deserves to be heard, but he should not stand in the way of a project that promises great things for Mount Pleasant, the region and the entire nation.