Our firm won the 2008 CNU Award for our proposed urban design for Marion Square in Charleston, South Carolina. For hundreds of years, the buildings around it have been designed in the classical style. However, after years of decline the result was a hopeless mixture of small, mismatched buildings, a gas station, a drive-in bank and a parking lot where elegant, classical southern colonial architecture once stood. At the end of the twentieth century, the square was one of the least attractive and most used public spaces. Although the street grid was strong, the coherence of it was weak. The buildings along the corridors and connecting cross streets were decrepit or missing and there was little interest from the private sector in investing in what was obviously a nowhere part of town.
Demarcating a Gateway to the City
The square is the first major urban open space one encounters when approaching the district.
By tightening up the urban fabric of the streets along and behind the square, and filling in vital gaps with a mix of retail, civic, office, residential and hotel buildings, we showed how the square could regain a sense of coherency and definition. The traditional urban grain of the surrounding streets could be restored, creating a vibrant gathering place and a destination for the local residents as well as tourists.
Provision for a Blueprint for the Future
The Vision of Marion Square is now an example standing for what the public had been asking for at civic architectural review meetings. In this city, particularly because of the historic style of its architecture, there is a schism between the man on the street who feels that modern style architecture in an historic district is being pressed upon him and the professionals and preservationists trained in modernism who insist that this style is compatible in an historic infill project, all the while ignoring the current historic district ordinance.