Right in the center of the City of Charleston, at the corner of Calhoun and Meeting Street, sits a rather curious garden structure. Six robust concrete columns hold up a steel trellis 20' up in the air. Frames constructed of steel angles and steel mesh fill the voids between the precast columns. Fig vine is slowly making its way up the steel mesh creating what I call a 'chia building.'
That curious little garden structure.....that's my pergola.
It is a funky little structure that has become a significant project to me and is my response to this month's #ArchiTalks.
What is #ArchiTalks?
Once a month a group of architect bloggers gather to blog about the same topic. This 'movement' led by Life of an Architect's Bob Borson is called #ArchiTalks. The topic for this month's #ArchiTalks number 14 is My First Project.
My First Project.
What a great topic to write about. It's just ripe with possibility and can unveil so much about a person. For an architect, 'my first project' could have many meanings.
What is an architect's first project?
- Is it the first project they worked on in their first intern architect job?
- Or is it the first project where an architect was the lead designer?
- Or maybe it's more official. Maybe an architect's first project is the first project they put their professional stamp on?
- Maybe it goes back further. Their first studio project in architecture school?
- Or maybe it goes back way further. Maybe an architect's first project is that first activity where they were initially inspired to be an architect. That eureka moment!
For me, my first project was the first project where I felt real ownership of the design and the design actually got built. It was a project that was built in the city that I work and live. My first project is the one where I looked at the final built structure and thought..."wow.....that's cool!" My first project was that weird little garden structure at the corner of Meeting and Calhoun.
My first project was The Pergola.
At the time, the pergola was just a fun little project. I was not yet a registered architect. I was still relatively new to Charleston. I was still trying to figure out this whole architect thing.
However, the more I have reflected on it for this post, the more I have realized that the pergola was a significant project in my career. In many ways.
But before I share why it was so significant, let me give you the quick background on the pergola.
So why is that Pergola even there?
Surely an actual building would be better on that corner?....right?
Back in the Spring of 2009, LS3P was hired to do schematic design for an addition to the Holiday Inn at the corner of Meeting and Calhoun Streets. (Now the Courtyard Marriott.) The owners had a piece of property on Meeting Street where we would design the 50 room addition. During a meeting with some city officials, we were asked to design a structure on the corner. At that time there was only landscaping at the corner and it was very weak for an urban corner. A very significant corner to say the least. And they basically begged us to put something there that would better define the corner.
The hotel owners had no intentions of building on that corner however after some convincing we talked them into a small garden structure.
And the pergola was born.
The image above is a rendering that shows the corner AP, 'after pergola.' In addition to the pergola, you will see that we re-skinned the 1 story kitchen structure and also designed the brick hotel addition further down Meeting Street.
So why did I pick the pergola as my first project?
At this point I was 3 years into my career. I had worked on many projects by this time. And is a pergola even a building?
Ownership of Design
Funny thing is, I also re-designed the kitchen re-skin and had a heavy hand in the hotel addition on Meeting Street, which is a much more substantial structure. The kitchen re-skin was a pretty minor job and another architect had designed the initial concept for the hotel. So I don't feel the personal tie to those two pieces of the design.
But the pergola was a project that a young intern could handle so I got complete ownership.
I remember feeling a great sense of pride and enjoyment at seeing the final built structure. I had seen our projects built before, but this was the first where I felt ownership of the design. That pride is one of the reasons why I love being an architect and has become a theme on this website. For a couple other stories like this check out:
My first BAR experience
This was the first project in which I experienced Charleston's Board of Architectural Review. This project included a demolition request, and a couple of deferrals. It was eye opening.
Maneuvering the BAR has been a big part of my role at LS3P. At the time of the pergola my only job was to create the drawings for the presentation. Now I am the guy presenting the project.
God Is In The Details
I had fun on this project detailing the steel frames and connections. Back when I did the Ghost Workshop I learned how basic steel shapes could be used to create finely crafted details. The vertical trellis frames are constructed of steel angles with steel plates creating the window frames. I really liked the nifty detail of the 4 angles that shoot out of the concrete column and clasp the steel tube girders. The trellis is topped off with paired steel plates with steel rods serving as the purlins.
I just said steel way to many times.
Revit Project and Renderings
This was the first project that I started utilizing Revit. For those that don't know Revit is a 3D modelling software used in the architecture profession. You can think of it as the next version of AutoCAD. A much better version.
This was also the first time I had used Revit to create photorealistic renderings. I used this project as an opportunity to share my interests and passion for graphic presentations. Many of the techniques we use today at LS3P were born out of trial and error efforts on this project.
A Very Significant Site
For those that don't know Charleston, this corner is right in the heart of the city. Marion Square is our miniature version of Central Park. In a Roman town, this intersection would be described as the Cardo Decumanus or the crossing of the main north-south and east-west streets into a city.
As a result, everyone drives or walks by this corner. The fact that the pergola is so visible is very rewarding......and a little scary.
How Far I've Come
Fast forward to today. About 6 years later.
At a recent BAR meeting I presented our design for a 6 story office building at the corner of Meeting and Calhoun. This building will sit on the property directly across the street from the pergola. In a sense, the pergola and the office will act as a gateway to lower Meeting Street. Albeit an asymmetrical gateway.
It is an awesome project on a very significant site.
During the board's deliberation, board member and architect Janette Alexander commended our design but challenged us to keep pushing the details and to make the building great.
And then she said something that resonated with me.
Wow. She was right. This is big time. And I'm getting to do it for the 2nd time. How lucky am I?
Oh...and our design for that office building was approved!
If you liked this little story, please consider sharing. And if you haven't already, please sign up for the email list to stay updated.
Check out what the other #ArchiTalks bloggers shared:
Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
My First Project: The Best Project Ever Designed That Wasn't
Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
My "First Project"
Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
My First Project - Again
Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
first project first process
Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Our First Architecture Project [#ArchiTalks]
Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: My first project
Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
I GOT A ROCK
Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
my first project: #architalks
Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
The First One -- A Tale of Two Projects
Rosa Sheng - Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
Why every project is my "First"
Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
"My First Project"
Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
The Early Years of My Architecture Career - My Role
brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
I Hate Decks
Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
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Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
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Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
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Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
my first project
Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
My First Project
Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
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Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
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Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
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Nisha Kandiah - TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
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