Studio A Helps South Carolina College Win Preservation Award

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February 9, 2008 (CHARLESTON, SC) – This past spring, the 1802 Anderson House in downtown Charleston, once in complete disrepair, was transformed into much-needed office space for the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Pharmacy. Last month, the Preservation Society of Charleston honored MUSC for its adaptive reuse of this historically significant structure by presenting the University with its Pro Merito Award.

The architect for the project was Whitney Powers, AIA, principal of Studio A, Inc., in Charleston.
Established in 1999, the Pro Merito Award is an off-shoot of the Society’s Carolopolis Award for historic preservation, which appears as a plaque on the receiving properties. The Pro Merito Award recognizes properties that have undergone a major restoration since they received a Carolopolis Award.

The Historic Charleston Foundation has described the 7300-square-foot house originally built by Daniel Cannon as one of the “…largest, most intact Federal period houses in the city with architectural details equaled only by those within the Nathaniel Russell House.”

The house was modified in 1838 when Southern industrialist William Gregg purchased it and introduced elements of the then-fashionable Greek Revival style.

So for the exterior, Powers did not want to reinforce the architectural significance of the building by focusing on any particular era of its evolution. “We realized that the building was significant, not for any single period or style, but for its composite nature,” she said.

She also had to balance the preservation of the historic house with the School of Pharmacy’s functional requirements.

After extensive analysis, Powers decided to remove ad hoc enclosures at the ground floor and the first floor piazza that were not “character-defining features,” she said. She also removed a rooftop balustrade at the piazza that also wasn’t historically significant and that caused water to seep in where the upright posts penetrated the roof. The Board of Architectural Review approved her decisions, which returned the piazza to its more historically accurate appearance.

The once handsome interior had undergone many alterations over the years and required all-new electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems as well as repairs and refinishes to every wall, floor and ceiling. Stylistically, “the original delicacy of the Adams-style details had been countered by the more robust Greek Revival alterations of the mid-19th Century,” Powers said.

Again, Powers chose to maintain these alterations “as evidence of the house’s evolution over time,” she said. “Then we specified new fittings and finishes that are historically appropriate for this remarkable interior.”
Powers praises the College of Pharmacy’s staff for readily embracing many accommodations that will prevent wear and tear on the historic finishes, including extensive use of task lighting and the arrangement of upper-level office areas.

A veteran of preservation/adaptive reuse projects in and around Charleston, Powers has received numerous design awards and has been featured in local, regional and national design magazines and journals. Earlier this year, her work with Raleigh, NC, architect Frank Harmon on The Circular Congregational Church’s Sunday School addition and Lance Hall renovation received the Historic Charleston Foundation’s Robert N.S. and Patti Foos Whitelaw Founders Award. For more information on Whitney Powers and Studio A, visit www.studioa-architecture.com.

The Preservation Society of Charleston is the nation’s oldest non-profit community and membership preservation organization. For more information, visit www.preservationsociety.org.

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posted by blueplate pr

Charleston Architect Completes Clean, Green, Modern Residence

"Green" architecture comes to the Johns Island, SC.
November 17, 2008 (CHARLESTON, SC) — South Carolina architect Whitney Powers, AIA, of Studio A, Inc., is well known for bringing a host of sustainable design principles and technologies to bear on her residential projects. The 5000-square-foot home she recently completed on Johns Island in Charleston is perhaps her finest example to date. Sleek and sophisticated, it is also a clear example of why clean-lined, contemporary architecture is the perfect palette for environmentally responsible design.

The house sits back from the edge of Penney Creek on a site large enough for Powers to break the owners’ spatial requirements into three distinct, and separately heated and cooled, sections: the main house in the center flanked by a guest wing (left) and home office wing (right). The three sections form a U-shaped courtyard of multi-level decking, centerpieced by an infinity swimming pool.

The flat roof lines allowed Powers to install a vegetated roof on the guest wing, which will filter rainwater, provide excellent insulation and, when the plant materials mature, will create a colorful complement to the home’s natural setting. Deep overhangs at the roof shield the interior from the harsh summer sun.

The “green” roof, the first of its kind on a residence in the Charleston Area, follows a similar roof on the new addition to the Circular Congregationalist Church in downtown Charleston that Powers helped bring to pass.

The roof above the main house tilts upward to create space for clerestory windows, natural ventilation, and natural light.

The house’s modern composition also welcomed the use of materials with highly recycled content, including salvaged cypress and cement panels for the shell. Inside, the owners’ collection of early American furnishings sets up an interesting study in contrasts with the sleek, contemporary exterior.

The façade facing the approaching driveway features copper cladding that will mellow to a green patina in time, further reducing the large home’s visual impact on the site. This façade also features nine windows, only two of which are the same size. According to Powers, the windows serve as “hints,” or abstract representations, of what’s behind them.

Working with clients who wanted to make the house as “green” as possible, Powers was able to specify a geothermal heating and cooling system and rain water collection cisterns to provide irrigation for the landscaping. Inside, she used board paneling recycled from an old barn, a limestone sink carved from part of an old house destroyed by a tornado, and paints with no volatile compounds that contribute to indoor air pollution.

The house’s seclusion in the landscape also inspired Powers to further this sense by creating a “labyrinthine,” covered stone entry court tucked underneath the main house to the left of the garage. From there, a staircase rises to the main deck and entrance.

The Charleston Post & Courier’s architecture critic Robert Behre has called the Johns Island residence “a showplace for many of the latest ideas on building in a more environmentally friendly way.”

Powers says she likes to think of it as “forms and spaces, sculpted to the landscape and the sunlight.”

A juxtaposition of light and dark, refined and raw, severe and delicate, transparent and opaque, it is clearly light years apart from the typical residence built along the Low Country’s creeks and waterways.

For more information on Whitney Powers and Studio A, Inc., visit http://www.studioa-architecture.com.

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