Project DescriptionThis multi-purpose building is the first facility to be built on a new campus for a technical college in South Carolina’s coastal Lowcountry, setting the tone for future construction, both in terms of interior design as well as campus presence. Situated along the only corridor into an historic district, the project underwent rigorous local design review while simultaneously striving to respond to the client’s mandate for a contemporary, technological image. To strike a balance, the architects utilized traditional stucco with imbedded whelk shells and stained cedar trim within an abstracted geometric composition. A linear reflecting pool and low entry canopy are introduced to recall coastal elements such as boardwalks and marshes while curved wood and stainless steel in the lobby further recall nautical architecture. The theme of rushing water is further suggested on floors throughout the building by random “shards” of dark vinyl embedded in a white VCT floor.
There were two primary challenges with the design of this building. One was that of designing a building that bridged between the community’s mandate for “historic lowcountry” architecture and the client’s mandate for a technologically-inspired design. As described above, traditional materials and other nautically inspired elements were utilized to address the concern of historic context. These elements were, in turn, organized with an abstracted, modernist sensibility, to suggest the type of state-of-the-art technological instruction occurring in the facility.
Another challenge was that of organizing seemingly disparate functions within one composition. As the first building on campus, it was necessary to house elements of almost all college functions under one roof, including classrooms, labs, faculty offices, conferencing space and media labs. This was achieved by separating traditional classroom spaces from labs and offices and further pulling these basically different functions apart through the introduction of an open lobby. The highly transparent lobby also provided an opportunity to create a strong visual link, or gateway, between the campus entry and the protected wetlands behind the building.
The design team further pulled the building back from the vehicular corridor and kinked the linear plan of the building to conform to the shape of the wetlands edge it abutted. By bending the plan, the massive appearance of the building was also mitigated, with the faculty and lab wing slipping behind the lobby, facing toward the neighboring county which was slated for the next phase of construction.