The studio project I'm teaching this semester at IIT is for a Gullah Cultural Center at Penn Center on St Helena Island, Beaufort, SC. The National Park Service is considering the possibility of building a visitor facility on the campus (which is a National Historic Landmark) as one alternate in the evolving Management Plan for the Gullah Geechee National Heritage Corridor established by Congress a few years ago.
Over the past couple of years we've worked on visitor contact facilities at Mt. Mitchell State Park in NC, and the Badlands National Park in SD. I had been thinking about completing a set of three visitor centers with a SC lowcountry project for some time, but the experience of working on the Venetian lagoon with the MOSE project was the real trigger. Since we've now developed some real expertise in this building type - not an easy use-program - and have managed to explore notions of building on high-stakes sites, I feel the studio should be well-positioned to take on a very challenging program on a really tough site.
The most interesting aspect of the project will be the opportunity to work drectly with the Penn Center as we help them to develop a new master-plan for the campus. This is one of the most important institutional sites in the lowcountry and a key site in African-American history and culture so the idea of working there is both intriguing and worrisome. A good ambience for a studio project.