The proposed new Clemson Architectural Center in historic Ansonborough is an atrocious design that resembles a sagging mattress made of glass. The defenders of this design say this is consistent with traditional Charleston architectural innovation, but that is simply not true.
Charleston is graced with classic designs such as the details shown here of the William Blacklock House on Bull Street. The Blacklock house was built around 1800 in a style that was innovative for its day – the Adam style that is also know as Federal style. Rather than deviate from tradition, the Adam style enhanced it, with elaborate detail meant to show off the skill of artisans in wood, iron and plaster. The brothers Robert and James Adam patterned the style after the beautiful details of late Roman and Greek classics, such as the Pantheon, where aesthetics were considered the ultimate in building achievement.
There is nothing aesthetic about the proposed Clemson structure, which is bulky, boxy and totally out of character with the historic Ansonborough neighborhood, which was mostly built in Greek Revival style after the Charleston fire of 1838. One of the greatest buildings in Charleston history was built just down the street in 1839 – the grand Charleston Hotel. That exquisite structure, with its 14 two-story Corinthian columns on a massive raised basement, was destroyed in 1962 to build another “innovative” building, the squat brick Heart of Charleston Motor Hotel.
The old city should have learned a lesson then, and fortunately, the Clemson center was not built.