Related Articles

 

Windows and Doors Deliver Reliable Performance, Lasting Impressions - Universities across the nation are seeking ever-larger...

 

Temporary Stand-Alone Facilities on Campus - When considering a major renovation, benefits of a...

 

Construction of an Indoor Athletic Training Facility - One of the newest facilities on campus has a very...

 

UT Announces Construction of New Fitness Center - To further enhance campus life and students’ co-curricular...

 

Promoting Campus Safety and Sustainability through Solar Lighting - The typical sustainable campus solutions like low-carbon...

 

The Greenest College Residence Hall in the World - Sustainable construction requires both foresight and the...

 

Salem College Blends New Design with Historic Island of Architecture - If Elizabeth Oesterlein were to walk up to Salem College in...

 

Web-enabled Cameras Help Construction Timeline - In the spring of 2011, Boston University embarked on...

 

Sustainability at Furman University: The Repurposed Shi Center - At Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, the...

 

Permeable Clay Pavers Solve Stormwater Issues, While Preserving Historic Character of College Campuses - No matter what your status is at a private college, from a...

 

Object Lesson: Campus Project Planners Must Understand New Buildings Within Campus Context - Once completed, buildings are never viewed in isolation....

 

Flexibility First: Student Rec Center Planning, Design, and Construction - Inclusion of multipurpose space is only the beginning....

 

Campus Paving Projects - For anyone who makes purchases for colleges in these times...

 

From Fixed to Flexible: Renovating Existing Spaces to Foster Collaborative Environments - In collaboration with designers at a technology, furniture,...

 

BIM & Daylighting: The Ultimate Planning and Sustainability Duo - Construction has become increasingly complex, with the need...

 

Top Ten Mistakes Made in Gymnasium Design and Construction - Learn from others' mistakes to avoid expensive retrofits...

 

State of Facilities in Higher Education - Private college and university leaders have a huge, often...

 

Modern Acoustical Design: No Longer Forced to Choose Between Good Looks and Good Sound - Over the past decade, much of what was not generally known...

 

Coordinating Exterior Aesthetics with Campus Architecture - Safety and aesthetic design confirms the campus demand for...

 

Construction and Planning: Look to Other Projects to Get Ideas for Your Own - Virtually every private college has a variation on the same...

 

Johnson & Wales Breaks Ground on $40 Million Engineering and Science Center - Memories of one of the worst New England winters on record...

 

Upgrading Campus History: Windows Provide Green Update to Older Structures - According to the United States Census Bureau, there are...

 

What To Expect When You're Expecting - Understanding the typical construction timeline can help...

 

Modular Buildings: Protecting Campus Image and Ensuring ADA Guidelines - In the current financial environment, budget is paramount....

 

A Simple Facelift in the Restroom Can Save Money, Reduce Maintenance & Improve Your School's Image - Every business and organization today is looking for ways...

 

Construction and Planning - St. Thomas University’s Careful Planning and Meticulous...

 

Scan Before You Replace: Non-Destructive Moisture Tests Provide Valuable Information for Roofing Professionals - Advanced imaging techniques provide crucial information for...

 

Setting the Stage for Acoustics First - Early acoustical theaters were just that— acoustic. The...

 

Cornell Implements First Solar Array to Expand Renewable Portfolio - 2MW Solar Farm Will Help Reach Carbon Neutrality: Cornell...

 

Reduce Residence Hall Noise with Acoustic Floor Underlayments - In multi-story residence halls, just as in private homes,...

 

Archives > November 2015 > A Transformational Project: Converse College's Johnson Plaza

A Transformational Project: Converse College's Johnson Plaza

Many students arriving for the first time at Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, like students arriving at any other private college, have an educational goal to be the best in their class. But when they get to Converse, they can draw some inspiration out of the fact that the first thing they will see was the best in its own right.

By: Walt Steele

Johnson Plaza, designed by Seamon-Whiteside, a Greenville, S.C.-based civil engineering and landscape architecture firm, was commissioned by the president of the college to celebrate the all-female college’s 125th anniversary. The project won Best in Class for Paving/Landscaping in the 2015 Bricks in Architecture competition by the Brick Industry Association, an industry trade group.

Clint Rigsby, RLA, ASLA, LEED AP, a senior landscape architect in the firm’s Greenville, SC office who oversaw the design, said the Johnson Plaza hardscape and its surrounding garden were meant to be a transformational project for the college, an improvement over what had been there before.

Supporting a modern vision for the sport of climbing Encouraging Pedestrian Movement The idea behind the elliptical plaza was simple: Find a way to encourage pedestrian movement into and across what had been an unsightly and inaccessible landscape at the “front door” of the college campus.

Given in honor of Susan Phifer Johnson (class of 1965) and George Dean Johnson Jr., two long-time friends and generous supporters of the college, the project was designed as a bridge between surrounding campus landscapes and facilities. It effectively facilitates daily interaction among students, converse pupn 3faculty and administration. Today, it serves as the setting for newly established campus traditions, significant campus events and informal gatherings. The project, in form and detail, reinforces Converse College’s commemoration of the past, as well as its commitment to the future.

An Elliptical Garden

The elliptical garden establishes a meaningful and historically sensitive foreground for Wilson Hall, the college’s historic administration building which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The clay brick vehicular drop-off and plaza, clay brick garden pathways and edging, and brick seat walls successfully reinforce the plaza’s historic context. Brick detailing and paving patterns are used to delineate vehicular and pedestrian zones and take cues from many of Converse College’s historic gardens.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the design creates a timeless space, sited between the college’s historic campus gateway and the 125-year-old Wilson Hall. Clay pavers effectively soften the visual and physical impact of vehicular traffic across the space. Within the space, clay brick pavers and seatwalls blend seamlessly with the historic architecture and gateway structures. The Courtyard Beale Street paver and Old Hampton Modular face brick from Pine Hall Brick were selected to complement brick hues of the surrounding buildings.

Distinct paving patterns within the plaza spaces and connecting brick pathways, header banding, and garden curb details all contribute to the historic garden experience. Broad granite steps, a two-inch wide granite band inscribed with the college’s core values, and the Converse seal inscribed in a single slab of granite further enhance this historically meaningful space. The garden’s diverse plant palette, designed for four-season interest, includes a variety of species which bloom purple in celebration of Converse College’s official color.

Serving Form and Function

The project serves function as well as form. Artistically designed as a fine garden landscape as well as a venue for ceremonial procession and larger gatherings, Johnson Plaza effectively serves multiple functional requirements.

Interlocking paving patterns, designed to perform under frequent vehicular traffic, are used at the speed table to extend the pedestrian experience of the upper plaza across the vehicular way. Brick seat walls flank accessible paths, which provide access to the lower plaza. The seatwalls, which incorporate bullnose shape and Spanish bond pattern details, are designed to encourage views across the Converse College seal and seven core values toward the more pastoral, campus lawn.

Vehicular thresholds and pedestrian crosswalks incorporate 2¼”x4”x8” square edge clay brick, sand-set over a 6” concrete base and restrained by flush concrete ribbon curbing. The same sand-set paver is laid over a stone base at both upper and lower pedestrian plazas and connecting garden pathways. Paver joints in both applications are swept with polymeric sand. Landscape lighting makes tconverse pupn 4he space both beautiful and safe during evening hours.

Lighting effects include up-lighting at newly planted serviceberry and weeping redbud trees, as well as overhead lighting of the lower plaza and campus seal from an existing oak tree. Day or night, once students, faculty, or visitors from the community have arrived at Converse College, they get an idea of what the place is about. It’s there, in the lower plaza. What’s expected of those in this place is actually carved in stone, out there for all to see: “Excellence. Integrity. Exploration. Diversity. Respect. Community.”

About Converse College

Ranked a “Best Value” in the South by U.S. News & World Report and #9 Master’s University in the nation by Washington Monthly, Converse College was founded in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1889— among the first 15 women’s colleges founded in the United States. Converse College is a private, liberal arts university with a residential women’s undergraduate college, co-ed graduate, distance learning and adult education programs with an enrollment of around 1400 students, representing thirty states and twelve countries.

Since the college’s founding, graduates have used their Converse experience as launching pads for successful careers and active citizenship. Among Converse alumnae are a Pulitzer Prize winner, a renowned heart researcher, a Texas Supreme Court Justice, a prominent civil rights attorney, Broadway performers, the deputy crew commander for Titan IV Rocket launches at Cape Canaveral, and the first female circuit court judge in South Carolina. Converse College is committed to developing adaptable individuals for the 21st century who are equipped with the character, knowledge, skills and perspective to transform the world around them.

Every Converse student participates in research, independent creative projects, service learning projects, internships or study travel. Half of Converse students are involved in research or independent creative projects. Converse College’s student researchers receive more SCICU funding than any other school in the state, 3/4 are involved in service projects, and 1/3 participate in study-travel to connect with global learning in Africa, Australia, Europe, Asia, North America and South America.

All photos by Forrest Briggs

 

 

About The Author
Walt Steele

is a recognized expert on clay pavers. He is paver business manager for Pine Hall Brick Company, America's largest manufacturer of genuine clay pavers. Steele can be reached at (800) 334-8689, by email at waltsteele@pinehallbrick.com and by fax at (336) 725-3940. For more information, please visit www.PineHallBrick.com

 

 

PUPN Magazine is a trademark of Flaherty Media, LLC, copyright 2017. PUPN Magazine and all contents are properties of Flaherty Media, LLC.