By Christian Sottile
“The Art of Architecture makes our existence not only visible, but meaningful.” –Francis Ching
Architecture is the subject of passionate debate in every city worth living in. Preservationists, review commissions, planning departments, elected officials, and engaged citizens participate in a spirited dialogue, as living cities re-populate and build again in the wake of the slow abandonment and suburban flight of the last century. Everyone wants to support good design, but it is elusive to find a clear explanation of what makes architecture “good.” Why do some buildings (often, but not always older ones) seem to impart a sense of well-being and promote human flourishing, while others make us feel ill-at-ease…or worse? Continue reading
What does it mean for a property to be located in an “historic district?” Continue reading
When Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) 50 years ago, it affirmed historic preservation’s importance to the United States’ cultural, environmental, and economic well-being. The passing of the NHPA also formed an official framework for what had previously been a largely informal activity, taken up in grassroots efforts like those seen in Charleston in the 1920s and 1930s. The NHPA charged the Secretary of the Interior (SOI) with establishing professional standards for preserving historic properties and created the Section 106 process, among other programs.
Every profession has its jargon, and from the NHPA comes a complexity of terminology, which can, at times, make historic preservation and its processes inaccessible. With May being Preservation Month, let’s clarify some of the ambiguous aspects of preservation parlance. Continue reading
In 1842, Miss Eliza C. Cochran received a handsome piece of property on Bee Street from Mr. Thomas Pinckney as part of a marriage settlement.
Saint Michael’s Church in 1861 (via loc.gov)
One reason Charleston’s history is so alluring is that it is multi-layered, complex, and flavored with the diversity of several ethnic, cultural, and religious groups. In the late-17th century, inhabitants of the nascent colony included Africans, West Indians, Sephardic Jews from Portugal and Spain, Scots, French Huguenots, Germans, Dutch, Irish, and of course English. All of these groups have left their mark on the city in one way or another, but in the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day, of particular focus here is the contribution of Irish and Irish-Americans to Charleston’s built environment. Continue reading
Image from the 2008 City of Charleston Preservation Plan
The Thomas Mayhem Pinckney Alliance is dedicated to recognizing and promoting significant sites and places in Charleston related to African American history. As Black History Month comes to a close, it is an apt time to highlight the considerable influence African and African American labor has had on the city, specifically its built environment. While the preservation movement’s policies and outcomes contributed to the current state of the Peninsula’s celebrated urban fabric, the skilled hands of predominantly black artisans were integral to the original creation of that fabric, the preservation movement itself, and the resultant building stock. Continue reading
On January 20, 2016, the Preservation Society of Charleston held its 96th Annual Meeting and 62nd Annual Carolopolis Awards ceremony sponsored by Belmond Charleston Place and Carriage Properties. Fourteen awards, including three Pro Merito, were given. Continue reading
Susan Macdonald’s article, “Contemporary Architecture in Historic Urban Environments,” discusses the complex issue of adding new layers to historic cities over time. It is critical that contemporary architecture reinforce the existing context and architectural value of a place, rather than detract from it by standing out and running counter to the finely-tuned grain of an historic area’s “look” and “feel” (i.e., the siting, setback, height, rhythm, scale, and massing of its buildings). Continue reading