College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston celebrates 30 years – and looks to the future


The Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston (CAC.C) saluted its 30-year past with an evening reception on March 1. The following day, however, was all about the future.

Ray Huff
Ray Huff, FAIA, is the founding director of the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston and also its current director. Image Credits: Everett Zuraw

CAC.C Director Ray Huff, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA), addressed the attendees of the Saturday symposium with a clear message: “Today’s program isn’t about seeking answers, as it is rather about posing the right questions.”

The anniversary weekend began Friday with festivities and a few formal remarks.

Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, director of the Clemson University School of Architecture, greeted a crowd of more than 100 community leaders, alumni, architects, educators and current students, emphasizing the center’s powerful impact on more than a generation of graduates.

“Tonight, we have the pleasure of honoring the success of this unique urban design education experience,” Schwennsen said.

Schwennsen highlighted the center’s model of community-based service learning. She also recognized the rich, immersive cultural experience that Clemson architecture and landscape architecture students receive in historic Charleston.

CAC.C display
After 30 years, the CAC.C is celebrating its past while it looks toward the future of architectural education and practice.

Richard E. Goodstein, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, praised the transformational leadership of Schwennsen and Huff, along with past architecture deans Harlan McClure and James Barker, who came before him at Clemson.

Dean Goodstein also stressed the importance of global education, and how the Fluid Campus provided students with critical outposts for learning. A unique feature of architectural education at Clemson University, the Fluid Campus extends beyond the main campus, including architecture centers in Barcelona, Charleston and Genoa.

Mark Land, vice president of University Relations, conveyed greetings on behalf of President James P. Clements and Provost Robert H. Jones. He offered thanks to Dean Goodstein for his leadership of the College, and also thanked Huff for everything he’s meant to Clemson, the School of Architecture, its programs in Charleston, and his profession as a whole.

Land also praised the legacy of excellence in the School of Architecture, noting that it distinguished Clemson, setting it apart from its educational peers.

A founder’s message

Huff and London
Ray Huff chats with Jim London, associate dean emeritus for research and graduate studies in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

John Jacques, a professor emeritus of architecture and former director of the Clemson Architectural Foundation, introduced a video featuring his classmate, Clemson University President Emeritus James Barker.

In the video, Barker directly addressed the crowd at the 30th anniversary celebration, outlining the beginnings of the Charleston center during his leadership and recognizing Huff as a remarkable teacher and leader. He called the program “a beautiful architectural dream for our students.”

Another highlight of the evening was when Dean Goodstein presented Huff with a framed copy of the United States Patent Office certificate that established the term “Fluid Campus” as an official trademark of Clemson University.

The weekend of celebration in Charleston also included a reunion dinner for a group of alumni who studied together in Genoa 40 years before.

Saturday symposium

On March 2, a distinguished panel of educators and former students gathered not only to look back at a Charleston program that has educated more than 1,000 students, but also to look ahead and explore visions for the center’s continued evolution.

Rob Miller
Rob Miller is former director of the CAC.C.

“We wanted to think about the CAC.C and architecture program as the past, the present, and the future,” Huff said.

“I think in any discourse you have to begin to understand and think about what has transpired, then you have to look in the moment, which is always fleeting, and then you need to look forward,” Huff said. “And in these times, that look forward can be the most challenging.”

The day’s other session speakers included Schwennsen; Jacques; former students Lisa Lanni and Kenneth Brabham; and former CAC.C director Rob Miller, who is now director of the School of Architecture at Arizona State University. The lineup also included Miguel Roldan, director of CAC.Barcelona, Henrique Houayek, professor in residence at CAC.Genoa, and Clemson professors Dan Harding, Ulrike Heine, Tim Brown and Matt Powers.

Examining the academy

Huff viewed the day’s fourth session, “Peering Forward the Next 30 Years,” as an essential dialogue not just for the Charleston program, but for the discipline.

The afternoon session featured guest speakers Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, the E. Fay Jones Distinguished Professor in Architecture at the University of Arkansas; Heather Roberge, chair of architecture and urban design at the University of California Los Angeles; and Nader Tehrani, dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union in New York and principal-in-charge of schools of architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Melbourne and the University of Toronto.

Kenneth Brabham
Kenneth Brabham, a fourth-year student at Clemson, studied at Charleston in 2018. Brabham was an invited speaker as part of a symposium that explored the future of architectural education.

The panel of eminent educators explored the state of the academy, its role, and its readiness to teach design over the next three decades.

“As academics and critical practitioners, we know the extraordinary richness and importance of design in everyday life,” Huff said. “In the civic realm, the community, and the home, we endeavor to ensure design and more specifically, architecture, elevates the human condition while servicing material and societal needs in a responsible and resilient manner.”

With that legacy comes great demands, especially in how the academy must prepare young people for their profession – and their rapidly changing world.

Huff mentioned changes in technology, big data and artificial intelligence. And he listed other challenges: economic disparity, political polarization and climate change.

As a discipline, architecture has been out of step and too slow to adapt, he said.

“Too often the profession and the academy have not been in alignment as to how the academy can and should prepare students for the world they will inherit,” Huff said.

Over the coming 30 years, and its next 1,000 students, the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston is setting out to change that.

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