The Clemson Center for Architecture celebrates 35 years in Charleston
In 1988, the dean of the School of Architecture—future Clemson University President Emeritus Jim Parker—had a vision for students to learn in one of America’s finest urban landscapes: Charleston.
To lead the newly formed Clemson Center for Architecture, Charleston (CAC.C.), has appointed Ray Huff of Charleston, who was one of dozens of former CAC faculty and alumni who returned to CAC.C this year to celebrate the CAC. 35y holiday. Hof is joined by former School of Architecture Director Kate Schwenson and current SoA Director James C. Stevens, as well as former CAC.C Director Rob Miller and current CAC.C Director Bradford Watson, who represent the line of leadership that has guided the Center throughout its tenure. date.
“CAC.C has evolved pedagogically into a program focused on community building that bridges academics and practice,” Huff said.
Since its founding, the center has educated more than 1,000 students in one of North America’s most historically and architecturally distinguished cities. One tangible outcome of CAC.C’s approach to teaching is the Architecture + CommunityBUILD program, which challenges students to design and build a project each year that adds value to South Carolina communities. Clemson students have now added more than 20 CommunityBUILD projects to the Charleston area landscape, completing the largest of them last year.
“The exceptional exchange of student learning and community service is the hallmark of this program,” Huff noted.
Drawing the future
To celebrate 35y Anniversary, Watson invited former faculty, alumni, students and members of the Charleston architectural community to discuss what the future might hold for the center.
“As we reflect on the 35 years of Clemson students engaged in the richness and complexity of Charleston, we also look forward to building on the successes and relationships that make up our pedagogy,” Watson said.
The conversation ranged from what the center’s role in the community should be, how it could help the university fulfill its land-grant mission to serve the state of South Carolina, and what the future holds for the discipline of architecture as a whole.
Todd Richardson, a graduate of the School of Architecture and co-founder of the Charleston-based design firm Synchronicity Land + Architecture, participated in the discussion and expressed the value the center provides to aspiring designers.
“Being a working city, students are at the intersection of tourism, historic preservation, adaptive reuse and infill development,” Richardson explained. “Their urban design projects address growth needs by learning the critical balancing act of redevelopment in providing affordable housing, regional transit, and environmental resilience. All of this occurs within a fascinating historical context.”
Richardson’s interaction with the Center indicates its continued evolution over the past three and a half decades. When he was a landscape architecture major at Clemson, the center did not teach landscape architecture; He is now a mentor to aspiring landscape architects out there. CAC.C is also now part of the larger Clemson Design Center, Charleston (CDC.C), which also houses the School of Architecture’s graduate programs in historic preservation and resilient urban design at the historic cigar factory on East Bay Street. While the Center has continually changed locations and added programs throughout its history, it has maintained consistency in its connection to the Holy City.
“At its core, CAC.C is positioned around the city as a learning laboratory for students to contribute to the conversation and build the environment for Charleston’s future,” Watson said.
CAC.C was the second of three sites to be included in the College of Architecture’s Fluid Campus® system, following the Charles E. Daniel Building Research and Urban Studies in Genoa, Italy.
While campuses in Genoa and Barcelona offer students the opportunity to experience the wonders of Europe, studying in Charleston opens up more practical benefits for students in the form of career opportunities and real experiential learning.
“Students are assigned mentors, work hours are tracked, and performance is monitored. Charleston is the only Fluid Campus location to offer this feature,” Richardson said. “This early exposure to the world of professional work gives students a clear advantage among their peers that helps shape their careers even before they They graduate.”
At the end of 35y To celebrate the anniversary, participants were invited to respond to a questionnaire on the words that best describe the future of CAC.C. Words that rose to the top included “thought leader,” “engagement,” “community,” and “integration,” each a term to define a future that flows seamlessly from a successful past.
“Our guiding ambition is to be an inclusive, collaborative partner and facilitator through community engagement, supporting Land Grant’s mission of improving communities,” Watson said.
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