One of the reasons that I moved to Charleston after finishing graduate school in Architecture was for the opportunity to work in historic preservation. While there has been a great effort over the last seventy-five years to conserve buildings in their original state and function, such as the Courthouse at the four corners of Law, some functions are no longer valid or practical in the downtown area. The idea behind Adaptive Reuse pertains to the process of recognizing the potential of existing buildings and respectfully renovating and updating structures for today’s needs. Not all buildings worth saving are necessarily historic, but contribute to the context and fabric of the city. My children are always fascinated when I point out that the restaurant we are in started off as a gas station or that the music auditorium was once a train depot.
One of my favorite examples of this concept is The American College of the Building Arts. Originally constructed for the utilitarian purpose of housing electric trolley cars in 1897, this building is now home for student artisans in traditional iron, masonry, and wood craftsmanship. From its inception in 1999, to the completion of their state of the art facility in October 2016, the ACBA has provided modern academics and workshops in an historic setting. Formerly housed in Charleston’s old City Jail, which is generating its own controversy as a future location of office space or a museum, the school has produced many graduates who are currently having an impact on projects throughout the Lowcountry and beyond.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is not just for aluminum cans and plastic bottles…
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