June 29th, 2012

Dream Project Part 1

Want a glimpse into the mind of this architect? I’m sure that all architects, whether experienced or not, have that certain project type on which they would love to work. We’ll call it a dream project.

There’s no such super sleek glass and concrete stucture in my dream.

For a long time, mine was the adaptive reuse of an old abandoned textile mill. There were four abandoned textile mills in my hometown of Rock Hill, South Carolina. I find beauty in the aged masonry and the rhythmic pattern of large windows often with jack arches. I always felt these would make great loft spaces for residential or commercial purposes with tall ceiling heights, plenty of natural light, and textures such as exposed brick and aged pine floors.

These monolithic structures were the centers of communities and were important economic engines. Below are some links to similar projects that have been completed.

The Lofts of Greenville

Greystone Lofts

Mebane Mill Lofts

September 5th, 2011

Much Ado About Main

One of the most interesting urban renewal efforts occurred in my hometown of Rock Hill, South Carolina. As a young person, I remember visiting the Town Center Mall moreso than my peers because my mom’s office was in a 70′s shiny corporate-looking building on the end of the mall.

Town Center Mall was actually built on our Main Street. In the 1970′s Rock Hill leaders recognized the movement of shopping and merchants away from the downtown district and to Cherry Road, a commercial drag that stretches from the Interstate. As people began shopping in locations along Cherry Road, like Beatty Mall and Rock Hill Mall, activity followed.

To mitigate the problem of abandoning the downtown core, city officials came up with a plan to compete. They put a roof on several blocks on Main Street. The Town Center Mall was born quite literally at the town’s center.

I remember Town Center Mall was rather dark and often empty. There was a large gazebo and some enclosed spaces added to the center. A shiny paver type flooring was added. The original buildings lining this portion of Main Street could be accessed from their rear or from the inside of the mall. The central promenade could be accessed from either end of the mall or through the stores.

Girl Scout uniforms from the original Belks.  Shoes from Stride Rite.  Necco wafers from Woolworth’s or McCrory’s dime stores. Eventually, however, the mall became a conundrum. A large relatively empty space sitting at our very core.

In 1993, the roof was stripped off and the building facades were refinished. Lunch eateries, specialty shops, the arts center, offices, and even residential condos materialized. Main Street is beautiful again and though it certainly no longer is the the source for shoes, hardware, and other necessities, it is back to its former grandeur. Lucky for us, those buildings are too beautiful to be covered anyway, and we know now how important it is to maintain the urban fabric. At the time though, covering Main Street was probably an innovative solution to try.

Please note that this is a previously unpublished feature article. I’m posting it here to reflect on my hometown’s industrial and cultural heritage. In addition, this article is to acknowledge and remember the vision of the late Lynn Stephenson.

In my hometown, community was a lifestyle long before smart codes, transects, and pattern books.  Like many others across the South, my hometown, Rock Hill, a city of roughly 50,000 citizens in the central upstate of South Carolina, grew up around the textile industry.  Working at a textile mill meant living and working in a tight-knit self-sufficient community.  The mills were community, in a way much unlike what we know today.  Generations of families were often employed at the same time in the same mill. [...]