The Catholic Diocese of Charleston's Pastoral Center - Construction Update

The most common comment/question I get about my blog:

How do you have time for that?!

My response is: 

Blogging is just like hiking, running, knitting, spending time with your kids, scrap-booking, video gaming, gardening, kick-ball, reality TV watching, painting, polka-playing, watching the Red Sox........and other stuff people like to do.  I actually do all of those things...for real!

if you are passionate about something, you will figure out a way to work it in to your life. 

This blog started out as an experiment and has quickly become something that is very important to me.  I have made a lot of great contacts and it has already paid dividends to my professional career.  And it is a lot of fun.

But it does take time.  So here is my one secret.

I try to blog about things that I am already doing.  In other words, the goal is not to invent content, but to record my current work.  And pray that I do something interesting that week!

So enough about my blog time hog!

The Catholic Diocese of Charleston's Pastoral Center Construction Update

I recently made a site visit to the Catholic Diocese of Charleston's Pastoral Center.  This is the 3rd post about this project.  And the 2nd post in a row about construction.  I have been visiting a lot of construction sites lately so as a result, I am blogging about construction sites. 

My previous 2 posts about this project focused on the Chapel design: Designing with Light and Design....It's a process

The chapel is just one component of this complex project.  There are actually 3 buildings on this campus.  The site plan rendering below shows the buildings from left to right:  The Assembly Building, The Chapel and the Office.

Site Plan Rendering.  This rendering is courtesy of the landscape architecture firm Design Works.

One of our goals for the project was to thoughtfully integrate the buildings within the existing landscape.  

Aerial Site Plan Rendering.

As I've done in the past, here is a comparison of the computer rendering and the construction photo:

Computer Rendering of Office

Construction Photo of Office

Exterior construction photo of office.  The main entrance is at the base of the gable in the front.

This site is heavily wooded with a large number of grand trees.  In Charleston a grand tree is defined by a trunk diameter of 24" or more.  Typically you are required to preserve the grand trees.  And that is what we did on this project. 

One of the larges grand trees on the site is shown below.  We designed the office building to work around the tree.  There will be a very nice courtyard around this tree.  You can see some of the brick paths being laid.

Office Exterior

The office exterior is a combination of brick, cast stone, fiber cement lap siding, and fiber cement board and batten.  The idea was for the building to have more of a residential look than your typical office building.

Office Interior

We had a few simple design goals for the office interior:

  1. Function is always most important and for an office flexibility is key.  This project has a combination of open style office space as well as private offices.  We also included a variety of different conference rooms of differing sizes.
  2. Studies have shown that natural light increases productivity ,reduces the amount of sick-related absence and increases employee retention.  Therefore there is a direct correlation to providing natural light and the financial bottom light.  On top of the business benefits, we have a beautiful site!  We took advantage of the picturesque site by providing large amounts of window openings in strategic areas.  We also oriented the building perpendicular to the shore line allowing for everyone to have a view to the marsh.  
  3. We also wanted to create a work environment that felt soft and cozy.  Traditional office buildings have a tendency to be a little stiff and corporate.  We went for more of a residential feel for this project.  Wood trim, residential style windows and a warm color palette help create a very comfortable work environment.

In the special areas of the building such as conference rooms and private offices we are using wood wainscoting.

The image below is a large conference room that is directly above the main entrance.  

Large Meeting Room

The picture below is a smaller conference room that is in the gable above the main entrance.

The next two photos are of private office suites.

The Chapel and Assembly Building

The other half of the Pastoral Center is the Chapel and Assembly Building.

Computer Rendering

Here is a comparison of the computer rendering and a current construction photo.  

Construction Photo

Computer Rendering

Construction Photo


One of the more unique materials we are using on this project is Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete.  That is a mouthful, which is why we use the acronym GFRC.  We are using GFRC for the column wraps and cornices on the pergola pictured below.

You are probably familiar with fiberglass in the making of boat hulls.  GFRC combines fiberglass and concrete to make a very strong assembly that can be cast into very decorative shapes.  The result is a product that resembles stone.

What are the benefits of GFRC?

  • Weight - It can be cast into very small widths.  The pieces we are using are 1-2" in thickness.  This makes the pieces lighter and easier to erect.  
  • Cost - It is more cost effective than real stone or precast concrete.
  • Design Flexibility - The possibilities for shapes and detail level is endless.

The next 2 pictures show how the columns are assembled.  Each column comes in 4 pieces.  2 halves for the column shaft and 2 halves for the column capitals.

Each halve is bolted back to the steel structural column in the center.

That is my colleague Bryan Beerman inspecting the large cornices.  Imagine how much a real piece of stone that size would weight and cost?  OK, I will tell you.  It would weigh a ton and cost a fortune.    

The Chapel Nave

My favorite space in the project is still the chapel nave.  It is a very pure space.  

The Pastoral Center is rounding third and will be open by the end of the summer.  I'll be sure to provide at least one more post on the finished product.

Thanks for joining me on the tour!

Want to learn more about the Chapel Design?  See Design...It's a Process and Designing with Light

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