APT Charleston 2012 - Join Us!
“Living laboratory” is a beautiful, succinct phrase that is probably overused. When you google those two words, you get back more than 280,000 hits. Yet when you visit Charleston, walk around its historic downtown square or take your morning run past the Civil War-era artillery pieces located in White Point Gardens Park, you feel the 30,000 or so references that belong to its city blocks are well-earned.
Consider the coast, where the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley slipped under Charleston Harbor for 130 years, or the Old City Jail, now the downtown campus of the nation’s only four-year college to combine trades and liberal arts education. Both relics are being lovingly restored by modern preservationists and will be the classroom for a Conference field session and workshop, respectively.
The role of designers and tradespeople in Charleston is not just one of necessity, but of honor and tradition. The long-standing legacy built upon the nation’s first preservation ordinance in 1931 results in a high level of respect for city artisans, newspapers that routinely cover preservation issues, and even elected leaders who are honored for a preservation mindset. It may be rare for a mayor to inspire the creation of an award from the design community, but sure enough, there is the eponymous Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Award for Leadership in City Design awarded by The American Architectural Foundation and the U. S. Conference of Mayors.
In Charleston, expect to be taken in a bit by the magic, even while speakers from around the world pull back the curtain on the tricks of the trade, from marine preservation of the Hunley to ironwork issues at the Jail. It’s not luck or magic, after all, but a dedicated mindset, that makes Charleston the U.S. capital of preservation.