the fluid campus [at work]


“You’ve got to know where you are to know where your going”

Earlier this semester Studio U located historical archives of MUSC through
the Low Country Digital Library. The archives show a collection of aerial
photographs of the campus from 1951-1991, including different perspectives
of the MUSC library. This discovery allowed us to analyze the evolution of
the the library over time, which thereby guided our design approach.

If you look directly under the overhang of the library you will notice a
water feature below the structure of the building. Our assumption is that
the design was completed in the mid 1960’s and removed in the 1980’s.

As a studio we are currently working to re-incorporate water back on site.
The design is a work in progress but plans to make you say “wow!” if you
were in a plane flying over Charleston.

No Sleep til…

It is crunch time here at the CACC. With only a month left, we still have a lot to accomplish. We have narrowed eight schemes down to three. These three schemes will be developed with rigor so that we may present these options to MUSC. Each scheme will inspire the people of MUSC in different ways…but I can’t give away too much. With a working session tomorrow and a weekend spent in the studio the designs of each scheme should be very well developed. We have put ourselves on a strict schedule because we all know architects have been pin pointed as procrastinators. I would argue that we don’t procrastinate, we just have that much work…A design is never finished. The design development is always one of my favorite parts. Working out the details can be frustrating but more so rewarding. A lot of different aspects of the design are brought to light through the details. Excitement also comes with the presentation of our final work. The big finale! I think I can speak for the studio when I express our excitement about all the people who are going to be attending this presentation. It is so flattering to hear that so many want to come listen to our designs. The next few weeks will be filled with excitement, stress and coffee! Stayed tuned for the unveiling of The Spine.

Suzanne Steelman

The Spine

Studio U met Friday with our clients as well as 15 other members of the MUSC staff and administration to show our concepts about what this ‘library’ can potentially be. The meeting was twofold, the first half of the presentation was meant to catch up the newcomers on what we have accomplished so far while the second part was really for all and presented 6 different schemes ranging from a conservative approach to a scheme that completely holes through the center of the building and uses ramps on the exterior. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and really gave a lot of insight into what we do next: design development, which is basically to narrow down the 6 schemes to 3 and rigorously develop them into a more tangible building instead of an abstract concept.

At the end of the presentation, we flashed a short little animation that served as somewhat of a ‘teaser trailer’ for what could be. The video called the building ‘the spine’. One of the things we have been troubled with as a studio is coming up with a name for this new typology of building. We don’t think the term ‘learning commons’ is progressive and cutting edge enough to be used (plus its been used, and we are entering uncharted territory in this project). Additionally, we feel the term ‘library’ has connotations that don’t necessarily relate to what the new typology is. So, we developed the term (for now at least), ‘The Spine’.


Well, let me explain,

  • The spine is a medical term. This project is for a medical library.
  • Books have spines. This building traditionally housed books and will still do so in both a physical and digital form.
  • Anatomically, the spine is essential in connecting nerves and nodes and keeping your body in a good functioning order, much how the library is to be essential in keeping the student body in a good functioning order and connecting to the campus.

The term applies on many different levels. We aren’t sure if it will be the one we stick with, but for now, it covers all of our bases. We would love to hear feedback and suggestions on the term if you would like to leave a comment.


Today was spent working on the presentation and meeting with Huff to get his feedback. Although the presentation on Monday went fairly smoothly, there’s still a lot of work to be done. First the Grad students met with Huff and went over their design schemes. Huff then met with the undergrads. We went through the whole powerpoint; adding a slide here, deleting a slide there, discussing formatting issues, graphics and transitions. We really picked apart each slide so that the presentation as a whole can be smooth and seamless. Like Huff keeps saying, “we are telling them a story”, therefore it must flow like a story.

Meanwhile, the graduate students were busy working on the presentation of each scheme in more detail. Animations were being more clearly thought out so that on Friday they will be presented in a concise manor. At the end of class we all went to the library to discuss the grad student’s work. The diagrams they came up with start by showing the existing structure.  Then the animations will start; leading way to the transformation of the structure into the new concept design. I really think that by incorporating these animated diagrams the driving points of each concept will be depicted clearly.

For Friday it is so important that this whole presentation is as smooth and clear as possible. So for now, it’s back to the studio to work on this storyline some more.


Tricia Johnson

Ramp It Up: Prepping for the Presentation

This upcoming Friday, November 5, 2010 Studio U will be presenting 6 to 8 conceptual schemes to MUSC.  It will mark the first time that any of our conceptual development is presented outside of the studio.

In addition to our regular (and extremely supportive attendees), Mary, Nancy, and Jeff – there will be 10 to 15 additional guests at the presentation.  Each one has a unique interest in the future of the library and it will be critical that the Studio seek their input as we move forward.  The feedback we receive will shape our future development and give us further direction for the remaining semester.  We are all so excited for the presentation!

Of the schemes we do present, MUSC will select three.  One of these schemes will undoubtedly be our ‘low impact’ concept while the remaining two will be up for debate.  From there we will take these three concepts and fully develop them for our final presentation.  Although we won’t be preparing any technical or construction documents, we will be presenting a re-conceptualized and throughly developed building program (and potentially new building form).  From site to study – our investigation will take into account all elements of the Colbert Education Center.

One word says it all…

For me, the naming of a project or design is something that usually happens last in the process, and to be honest, with minimal thought.  A quick brainstorm, maybe a glance at a thesaurus if I’m feeling extra motivated.  As long as it sounds somewhat cool and generally reflects the basic feel of the project, it sticks.  However, finding a name for our MUSC library has proven a tad more difficult than anyone was expecting.  We are not just naming our particular library.  We are attempting to name a completely new typology of building.  The word “library” does not really express what the “new” library is all about.  It will no longer be an austere repository of information, but an interactive destination for both studying and connecting with others. It will have a multitude of different spaces and functions, drawing people in for numerous different reasons.  It will hopefully provide a unique and radically different experience for its users, and requires a name that reflects its exciting intentions.

We agreed early on that “learning commons” and “student center” have been done before, are out-dated, and absolutely would not entice the interest of the students.  So the question remains, how do we name a place that until now, has never existed?

As a studio, we tend to have a few describing words that continue to pop up in class discussions.  Hub.  Node.  Nexus. Core.  Concourse.  Most recently Terminal has been dubbed the new temporary library name.  On one hand, “terminal” acknowledges the fact that the library is a place where students can come and go freely, a place where information can be transported from all over the world, a place that encourages movement and interaction.  However “terminal” also suggests the end.  And at a medical university and hospital, “terminal” is not generally a work that folks want to hear.  Not to mention, a terminal is already a building type, conjuring up images of crowded airports or dingy bus stations.  What we need is a word free of previous uses.  Much easier said than done.

The word “interface” was recently suggested by Professor Huff, and although some thought it sounded too computer and technology oriented (and understandably so), “interface” really does get closer to the mood we are trying to conjure with a single word.  The library will act as an interface in multiple ways: between users and information, between students and other students, and hopefully between the occupants and their immediate environment.  I tend to agree that “interface” sounds a little techy, but generally is heading in a direction that we need to follow.

Well, back to brainstorming and some thesaurus inquiries!  Check back with us on Monday…a new, exciting, radical, and enticing name is right on the tip of our tongue (at least we hope!)


The one with all the schemes

In our analysis phase we came up with a very long list of issues and opportunities that pertain to the MUSC library. This list was then transformed into a smaller list of principles that we feel is very important to refer to as we continue to design…

  1. Strong visual transparency- both from exterior and from within the building
  2. The library “experience” should extend beyond the building envelop
  3. Diversity and flexibility with future needs
  4. A distributive and decentralized approach to the library’s organization is essential
  5. Enhance the library in order to remain the nexus in an expanding campus

With this list taped all around the studio an ingrained in our brains we begin the conceptual phase. The undergraduates have been working very hard on finalizing the future program and presentation layout. Seeing as our next big presentation is the day after Halloween it would be nice to be done early, but when does that happen in architecture? Well at least our studio stands next to an old haunted jail…maybe we will see something out of the ordinary happen while working that night. Anyways…while the undergraduates have been working hard, the graduates have been working even harder…well we have all been working diligently. The graduates have been focusing on fundamental schemes that reflect our principles. Currently we have about eight, by the end of the night that number will most likely go up. We are exploring ideas such as making this very horizontal space more vertical, carving out portions to create more light and interesting spaces, an addition of a skin that could possibly be occupied, and implementing green space and sustainability. Those are just the beginning. We are anxiously awaiting feedback from our clients so that we can dig even deeper into these schemes. Well it’s going to be a long and productive weekend. We will substitute sleep with candy corn. Happy Halloween!

Suzanne Steelman