It’s a warm, humid morning in Charleston and the call of seagulls has finally replaced the sound of bulldozers and blowtorches. In just over nine months, architects and construction workers erected a building that is more than just a pretty face.
The state-of-the-art 75,000-square-foot facility, an iconic glass and metal structure located on the waterfront of Charleston’s old naval base, will symbolize the joint vision of Clemson University and businesswoman/philanthropist Anita Zucker. The program will serve as the academic anchor in the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) applied technology park, joining the Warren Lasch Conservation Center and the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center. The Zucker Family Graduate Education Center will offer master’s programs in electrical engineering, systems engineering and digital production arts (DPA) and a Ph.D. program in computer science.“For years our business community has complained that we don’t have enough graduate-level courses in engineering. Well, I feel like that call will finally be answered with this new center,” Zucker said.
“The Zucker Family Graduate Education Center will respond to industry’s demand for an engineering workforce for the future,” said Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, director of business development for CURI. “The center will bring opportunity for personal and professional growth for place-bound engineers who would like to have an advanced degree and expand their opportunities in the job market.”
The idea is that the engineering programs will help keep young talent and expertise from leaving South Carolina for other places that offer opportunities to grow in the industry. Additionally, the DPA program will expand instruction in video game design and content development in hopes of creating a new regional industry. The center will start with a combination of on-site and remote (via video conference) learning with a plan to have the program completely local within three years.
The timing of the opening is ideal as Charleston is quickly becoming one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas for such advanced business and industry sectors as aerospace, transportation, advanced materials, advanced security and biomedical services and manufacturing. According to the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Charleston region is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States, and growth in population and employment is expected to continue to exceed the national average.
But the Zucker center isn’t the only new building for Clemson in Charleston — new to Clemson, that is. In August, the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston and the Historic Preservation Program were united under one roof when they moved into the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street. The former cigar and textile manufacturing plant was originally built in 1881 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Formerly, the two programs were housed in three separate locations. To better meet existing needs, anticipate planned growth and ensure that Clemson students in Charleston have all the resources they need, a larger, more functional facility was required.
“Clemson is thrilled with this solution to house our allied design programs in Charleston under one roof,” said Richard E. Goodstein, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. “It has been a long-time goal of the University’s to integrate the creativity, scholarship and service outreach of these programs in one central location.”
Though completely different aesthetically, the hope is that both these buildings will expand the footprint of Clemson in South Carolina and in turn cement the idea that the University is committed to providing opportunities to students, teachers and industry alike, across the entire state.