Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Trees’ legacy engrained in new business building by design


Trees that once stood on the hillside across from Bowman Field are finding permanent residency in the design and functionality of the new building being constructed for Clemson University’s College of Business.

More than 6,500 board feet of mostly white and red oak reclaimed lumber is being put to a variety of uses in the business school’s twin-tower, approximately 180,000 square foot building scheduled for completion in 2020.

“By weaving the reclaimed lumber from the trees that once graced this hillside into the design of the building, we are preserving the legacy of what once stood here,” said Bobby McCormick, business school dean. “For generations to come, all who pass through our new home will bear witness to a resource given a second life and a permanent place in Clemson history.”

The university enlisted professionals to remove the trees as part of the plan to reclaim the lumber. Clemson forestry students are learning from the urban forestry project by participating in repurposing the wood and by planting new trees to replace those reclaimed for use in the new building. The building’s landscaping plan will involve planting up to 150 new trees, including varieties of paperbarks, red maples, magnolias, ginkgos, tupelos and red and white oaks, to name a few.

Laura Twomey, interior designer for LS3P, the building’s architect of record, is charged with blending the past into a 21st century building of learning. Though the building’s exterior façade will be prominently glass and brick, she said the building design includes wood for warmth and functionality. So, using the reclaimed wood made perfect sense.

“I think it was very mindful of the university to incorporate a resource from the building site’s past into its future,” Twomey said. “The building is extremely modern in its design, but these reclaimed pieces of history will tell a story that will be shared and enjoyed for present and future generations.”

The reclaimed lumber will be used in many areas of high traffic and visibility within the building.

“Wood products will be used for everything from flooring and wall accents, to furniture and inlays,” said Twomey. “Not only will people be wowed by the magnificence of the overall design of the building, the finishing touches that the reclaimed lumber provides will be very visible and impressive.”

Tidewater Lumber of Greenville is charged with creating the finished reclaimed wood products that will adorn the building’s interior. Louis Voorhees, manager of Tidewater, said once the wood is cut in the saw mill, his employees kiln dry it before Tidewater craftsmen create the finished flooring, accents and furniture.

“The decision to reclaim the lumber and make it part of the new business school will be a nice reminder of what was once there. By doing this, the trees are being given a second life. We’re happy to be part of reclaiming this resource and giving it a lasting presence in this important Clemson building project.”

Twomey said the university made a special effort to reuse other resources once located on the building site. For example, rubble from the now-razed Clemson House has been utilized as a base for heavy-equipment roadways designed to mitigate erosion during early-phase construction at the work site.

“Some remains of the Clemson House are also being used in the new building’s faculty lounge,” she added. “For instance, soapstone window sills from that building will serve as benches in the lounge and they’ll be complemented by wood floors from lumber that was reclaimed from the same hillside.”

The wood accents will be visible in both of the building’s towers, from the high-traffic second level where students and staff enter the building, to the atrium and dean’s suite.

“First-time visitors to the building are going to be awed by how grand and massive the building is, but also how light and airy it feels provided by all the natural light. The interior sight lines will be fantastic. One will be able to see the third and fourth levels from the atrium’s ground floor.”

Some of the interior designer’s favorite applications of wood in the atrium and outdoor plaza are the monumental stairs. Not designed for ascending and descending the building’s five levels, these sections of steps will be oversized seating areas created for lounging.

“The monumental steps will be terrazzo, but will have wood insets that will invite passers-by to have a seat,” Twomey said. “It’s one of the many ways the lumber will serve the building’s visitors from functional and design standpoints.”

But, according to the designer, the building’s best and perhaps most influential storytelling opportunity will come from the dean’s office, which will be floored with quarter-sawn oak that will accentuate the wood-grain’s splendor.

“So many students and important people will pass through the dean’s suite; because of the flooring’s high-profile presence in this area, it will become a conversation piece,” Twomey said. “It will no doubt present many opportunities to share the story of reclaimed wood in that office, and who better to tell it than the dean.”

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