Business report

Center to Strengthen Advocacy, Education for Architecture SC > Columbia Business Report

Preserving South Carolina’s architectural heritage is one of the missions of the South Carolina Architectural Foundation and the State Chapter of the American Institute of Architectsand a new showcase designed to highlight that the work in progress couldn’t have had a more appropriate location.

The Center for Architectural Design, located at 1530 Main St. in downtown Columbia, is the product of a years-long vision to increase the visibility of the architectural profession in the state. Before the SC AIA chapter purchased the building, which is currently being renovated in preparation for a late fall opening, there was no real center for architectural outreach and education.

Since the early 1980s, the organization had operated out of “The Cottage”, a small structure on Bull Street nestled among law firms. Inspired by larger AIA chapters with a more centralized and visible presence across the country, including one in Raleigh, AIA SC decided to change that.

“We made a commitment in 2014 to pursue something greater, both from an advocacy/lobbying perspective with the Statehouse, but also from the perspective of where the public might view the architecture in Carolina,” said Ben Ward, project manager at McMillan Pazdan Smith and 2022 President of the AIA SC

In 2015, AIA SC purchased the former Eckerd Pharmacy building, where a significant moment in state history took place in 1960. Allen University student Simon Bouie and Allen University student Talmadge Neal Benedict College, were arrested, jailed and convicted for refusing to leave the Eckerd luncheon. counter, where they were refused service because they are black.

These events became the basis of a landmark 1964 civil rights case which, coupled with another food counter case at the nearby Taylor Street drugstore, led to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the students’ convictions. , asserting their right to due process under the 14th Amendment. had been violated. Days later, passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed racial segregation in public facilities.

“Based on historical photographs of the incident, we actually located the two (counter) stool stains,” Ward said. “On the terrazzo floor, you could see the outline of where the pharmacy counter was, and then you could see the circles where the stools were bolted to the floor.”

The Old Eckerd Pharmacy played a pivotal role, recognized by a historical marker outside the structure, in Colombian history. But like the civil rights case that originated in the building, its new tenant hopes to extend its impact beyond the capital. While the Center for Architectural Design’s proximity to the Statehouse is key to AIA SC’s advocacy of architecture and issues such as safe and sustainable building codes, its community reach will extend to every corner of state, both urban and rural.

“Columbia is very central and strategic in its location to the Statehouse, but the purpose of the center is really to bring that programming to our communities, to Charleston and Greenville and upstate and the Grand Strand and the Midlands. “, said Dan Scheaffer. , director of the LS3P office in Charleston. “That’s where we’re going to have the most impact once we have it in those communities.”

Adrienne Montare, Executive Director of AIA SC, echoed these goals.

“We wanted to create the South Carolina Center for Architecture so that we had a space where we could show the public what we do and improve the services we provide to our members,” she said. “We feel so lucky to be located in the heart of the capital, just blocks from the Statehouse and across from the Columbia Museum of Art. It’s the perfect place to showcase the important work architects do to uplift communities and design beautiful, safe, and healthy places for all South Carolina residents.

Statewide Vision

Scheaffer was president of the AIA SC during the fundraising and design of the center, and he was a member of the steering committee for its fundraising campaign, which he says has received great support from members. Currently a member of the SC Architectural Foundation Board of Trustees, he is excited about the center’s potential to not only promote architectural achievements, but also to make those achievements accessible to all residents of the state.

“Really, the focus of the center has always been about three main things: advocacy, community awareness, and member knowledge,” Scheaffer said. “This includes preserving historically and culturally significant buildings, creating affordable housing through better design, and supporting programs that promote resilient design to protect homes and businesses during weather events such as hurricanes. and earthquakes.

“And then one of the things that we’re getting a lot of traction on and I think is really important for our profession, in particular, is diversity, equity and inclusion – being culturally aware. How can we create a better diversity pipeline?” he said. “It really starts with getting into the schools. We do a lot of partnerships with Clemson on programs and also K-12, creating programs that help young students to see architecture as a viable career path, because it’s not often taught by guidance counselors and schools, that you can be an architect.”

The center will also feature rotating and traveling exhibitions, including one called Say It Loud, created by architect and activist Pascale Sablan and aimed at increasing diversity in the field.

“We take this idea of ​​architecture, and you go to Dillon County and do presentations for kids,” Ward said. “You go to Allendale County, some of those places where it might not be taught in school. We don’t give them that as a career choice. “You can get into architecture and you can make your community a better place” – that’s not something they hear, and it’s something they should hear.

One of the goals of the center is also to keep this budding talent at home.

“One of the big things for me is creating a pipeline for kids – a wide range of kids – to think they can become architects, to see the importance of the profession, and to see the power of change that we have in the profession, and also to emphasize that you can be a great architect in South Carolina,” said Ward, who earned a design degree from Clemson in 2003 before earning his master’s degree in architecture at NC State. “I think very often in rural areas, kids go to architecture school and then they move to New York or DC or somewhere like that to train when they could stay here in their country. origin and do great things.”

After purchasing the centre, AIA SC held a design competition in 2017 to select the architect for the project. The winner was former Colombian company Watson Tate Savory, which merged with McMillan Pazdan Smith last October. The move combined Watson Tate Savory’s expertise in higher education design with the broader reach of MPS, which has offices in Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, Charleston, Charlotte, Atlanta and Asheville.

“Now we have the support of this great company that has allowed us to do more things and pursue bigger projects and participate even more in the community,” said former Watson Tate Savory director Gene Bell. , now with MPS. “We hope the center will bring an awareness of architecture to everyone – not only will it serve as a base for all registered architects, our members and the association, but also a home for the understanding of architecture. architecture and its impact on our community. ”

The Architecture Center will feature its current, historically protected stone facade, which will open into a bright, open space for events and exhibitions lined with office space.

Delayed by COVID-related supply issues and requiring roof repairs and other repairs before new construction begins, the center is on track to open in late October or November, Ward said, the party public of its fundraising efforts also set to begin soon.

“We are so grateful to all of our founding campaign donors who have enabled us to not only renovate our Center for Architecture space, but also to develop statewide programming to advance public awareness of power. of architecture, planning and design,” Mary Beth Branham, president of the SC Architectural Foundation, said. “We will now have a place, right here in downtown Columbia, where we can host these programming events that will then spread to other areas of the state.”

Having been on the ground floor of the center’s creation, Scheaffer is eager to see the final form of the project.

“There was a lot of effort by a lot of (people),” he said. “Financially, our firms have invested. We’ve invested our time and talents to make this happen, so it’s really exciting. It’s going to be an amazing space, and we’re so excited to have him here. I couldn’t get here soon enough.

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.