Posts

Vegas Visionary: Paul Steelman ’77

Before Steelman graduated from Clemson with an architecture degree, there was only one city in the country where you could place a legal bet: Las Vegas.

Paul Steelman

Then, in 1976, New Jersey legalized casinos in Atlantic City.

As a native New Jersian, Steelman was attracted to the area. He’d had experience working under his father, also an architect, in Longport, New Jersey, doing smaller projects. Schools,
funeral parlors, summer homes. But he was ready for something bigger.

“I was offered a position as [Atlantic City] planner, and I took the job mainly because I wanted to see how this rebirth of the city was going to work,” Steelman says. “I was the architect of the city even though I wasn’t [working as] an architect at the time.”

Growing Atlantic City into a thriving resort destination meant working with some of the day’s most famous architects. Through them, Steelman got a glimpse of his dream career. And then he got a job offer from high-profile architect Joel Bergman. He worked for nine years on Vegas design projects like the Golden Nugget and the Mirage before opening his own architecture firm, Steelman Partners, in 1987.

Now, Steelman Partners has designed more than 4,000 casino and integrated resorts worldwide, including Galaxy Macau Phase II, Sands Macao and Solaire Resort & Casino. With so much
experience in the business, Steelman understands that a casino’s design must walk the fine line between brand culture and achieving profitability, versatility and ease.

“We have a lot of experience with what people like and are comfortable with, and we start from that experience.” Steelman explains. “We want to follow a set of rules.”

These rules consist of certain design elements that he doesn’t often stray from, things like fast elevators; soothing colors; easy access to exits, cashiers and restrooms; and ample lighting. The goal is to create a space that’s not only exciting for guests but also comfortable. Too much experimentation with core revenue features can lead to failure, Steelman
warns. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for creativity: “The direction of the columns of the garage or the color of the carpet or where you place a mirror — that’s the reason I became so interested in this [career]. It’s fun!”

Looking forward, Steelman isn’t even close to tapping out. “I’m not sure I ever want a break,” he says.

“Monday is always my favorite day of the week.”

Giving Back to Clemson, and to Horses

John Blackburn '69

Architecture may be a traditional Clemson degree, but John Blackburn ’69 is far from a traditional architect. He created his own career in equine facility design — designing horse farms and stables that take into account the health of the horse, the demands of the site and the needs of the owner.

Blackburn started his own firm in the D.C. area and has built a successful career, designing more than 250 unique facilities worldwide. He is passionate about using the landscape to influence the building design by studying scientific principles, weather patterns and other natural factors. Because of his design methods, he has developed a special connection with landscape architects, though landscape architecture was not offered while he was a student.

At the peak of his career, Blackburn was motivated to give back to his alma mater, specifically the architecture department. “I’m very proud of the program and what it’s done since I went here,” John said. “It was a good program then, but it’s incredible now. They have a great facility, they have a great staff, they have a great program, and I wanted to see if I could contribute to that.”

Since his career had provided him with skills that many architects might never learn in a traditional field, he reached out to Clemson with the intent of passing along his knowledge. However, Blackburn wanted to work directly with students, influencing and expanding how they thought about their field of study.

He began by giving lectures to equine management students and went on to lead an exercise that brought together students in architecture, landscape architecture and equine management. Under his guidance, the students used the Clemson Equine Center as a case study, examining its design and functionality. The architecture and landscape architecture students acted as consultants for the equine management students, who played the client role, and they worked together to recommend improvements.

Now that the case study has been completed, Blackburn’s vision is to see the students’ work come to fruition. That way, the students will have something tangible on campus that shows their efforts, and Clemson will benefit from having a first-class equine center. “I hope to see it become reality,” he said. “I want to see the students experience a real project and look back over the years as they move on in their careers and say, ‘This is something I contributed to and made successful.’”

When asked why giving back to Clemson was a good idea, John responded immediately by saying, “Because Clemson is a good idea.” Plus, he wants to give back to horses as well. “Horses have fed me for 35 years,” he said. “It’s time for me to feed the horses.”

Clemson architecture team develops a new way to build

A team of Clemson architecture students assemble Indigo Pine East, the first structure built using the sim[PLY] construction method. Off-the-shelf plywood is cut by CNC routers into interlocking tab-and-slot pieces that fit together to form a solid, tight frame. With the sim[PLY] method, digital cut files can be emailed to a CNC fabricator, then shipped flat-packed to the construction site, ready to be assembled by hand by unskilled laborers.

Clemson University’s School of Architecture is developing an innovative new construction method that is gaining worldwide attention for its potential market impact in rapid, low-tech sustainable housing.

Using the sim[PLY] Framing System, “With a click of the button, someone could order a custom-cut, flat-packed home online and construct it by hand with the help of their friends and neighbors in a matter of days,” said Kate Schwennsen, professor and director of the School of Architecture.

One of the sim[PLY] Framing System’s innovative advantages is its revolutionary interlocking tab-and-slot connection system (patent pending). Assembly is intuitive and easy; so buildings come together much like a 3D puzzle, using no nails, just steel zip ties and some screws. This means buildings can be disassembled just as easily, without causing structural damage.

“sim[PLY] is faster, safer, easier and more energy-efficient than traditional construction with power tools,” Schwennsen said.

sim[PLY] offers a rapid, low-tech construction solution with a profound reduction in a building’s total carbon footprint. Here’s how:

  • sim[PLY] uses locally sourced plywood and computer numeric control (CNC) fabrication.
  • Construction plans are digital and can be emailed anywhere there is a CNC controller.
  • Components can be pre-cut using off-the-shelf materials, pre-measured and flat-packed, requiring less transport space and smaller vehicles versus other forms of prefabricated structures.
  • Cut pieces lock into place on site with no power-operated tools or heavy equipment required.

sim[PLY]’s evolving impact:

  • A national Department of Defense (DOD) building contractor has looked at sim[PLY] for Rapidly Deployable Housing applications, such as for use in temporary military housing. sim[PLY] is being considered as a potentially cost-saving opportunity to build better structures faster, safer and using less energy on the jobsite.
  • sim[PLY]­ ’s built-in ease of construction makes it an ideal framing model for various types of do-it-yourself housing. Think: tiny homes. To explore this popular housing trend, Clemson’s architectural students have designed an energy efficient sim[PLY] tiny home prototype that could be structurally framed in just one day’s time.
  • Timber is one of South Carolina’s most important cash crops, with an economic impact of $20 billion, according to the Forestry Association of South Carolina. sim[PLY]’s use of plywood would create both a positive economic and environmental impact here at home. Beyond causing a greater demand for timber, wide acceptance of the sim[PLY] process would mean a more diverse and robust use of forest resources; plywood manufacturing, unlike that of lumber, makes use of older, more mature trees.
  • Architectural communities in Italy, Austria and Germany – countries considered to be worldwide leaders in wood construction and sustainable building – have expressed interest in sim[PLY]. Overseas and in the U.S., sim[PLY]’s sustainable performance benefits are compelling.

The sim[PLY] rafter assembly for a CropStop community kitchen.
Image Credit: Clemson University School of Architecture

An example of a sim[PLY] structure in use is the CropStop community kitchen on Lois Avenue in Greenville. The building makes it possible for crop owners to better process their harvests to meet local demand for fresh farm-to-table foods. A new universal CropStop prototype was designed in the fall and could impact global agrarian economies where there is interest in this concept for sustaining local growers and evolving farm communities.

sim[PLY] was first developed by Clemson architectural faculty and students as part of their entry in the 2015 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. While their end result was a solar-powered, energy-efficient home, it was just the beginning for the innovative framing system that is proving it has a marketable life of its own.

Architecture student Paul Mosher examines sim[PLY] pieces cut by a Computer Numeric Control device. Sim[PLY]’s interlocking connection technology is patent-pending.

“sim[PLY] is an ongoing, evolving project,” Schwennsen said. “New teams of students are being challenged to optimize the design and create newer, smarter versions to meet the needs of a variety of commercial, government and end-user market applications.”

The School of Architecture and its faculty continue to be leaders in integrating critical and creative research into its nationally ranked accredited graduate program.

The sim[PLY] team includes faculty inventors Dan Harding, Dustin Albright, Dave Pastre, Ulrike Heine, Vincent Blouin and Ufuk Ursoy; and contributing student inventors Anthony Wohlers, Michael Stoner, Eric Balogh, Tyler Silvers, Clair Dias, Alison Martin, Jon Pennington, Jeff Hammer, Will Hinkley, Justin Hamrick, Alexandra Latham, Neely Leslie, Daniel Taylor, David Herrero, Rebecca Mercer, Russell Buchanan, Amelia Brackmann, Paul Mosher, Allyson Beck and Alex Libengood.

Clemson’s footprint expands in the Lowcountry

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.

Best in Show: Christine Tedesco ’82, ’85, M ’90

Christine Tedesco_022For Christine Tedesco art and life all bleed into one. Art is life. Life is art.

Nothing is an imitation. Each building she’s designed as an architect with a team is just as much a piece of her as a quilt she’s created alone for the couch at home.

Her creative pursuits led to a “Best in Show” at the Anderson Arts Center 41st Juried Arts Show this past spring for a quilt named “Beige #1.” It was one of more than 500 entries in the show. She’s also shown pieces at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C., the Ogden Museum in New Orleans and Art Fields in Lake City.

“I think the first thing I made was an apron,” said Tedesco. She began sewing when she was age nine, and as she grew, the instructions from her mother grew from stitches to life lessons on careers.

“My mother was very adamant that I had to major in something I could do so I didn’t have to depend on a man,” said Tedesco. Her love of making things led to a career as an architect, where she now leads at RSCT architecture + design.

But she didn’t leave behind her personal creative time just because she was being artistic at her day job. Instead she wanted to challenge herself to be innovative. At age 29 she took sewing to the next level and began quilting. “I wanted to try something more difficult,” she said. She also took a tailoring class and tackled making a man’s suit.

Even graduate school was taken as a confrontation to defy daily life. “I just came to the conclusion, there’s got to be more to life than this. My mind was cut open and things were poured in. I had such a great time. It was probably one of the biggest challenges of my life, but my desire to learn was different.”

Like many artists or creative types, Tedesco is driven by desire. “I get an idea in my head and it doesn’t leave until I figure out what I’m going to do. I never use a pattern.” Even her use of color isn’t conventional as she doesn’t follow traditional color relationships, but instead gut reaction to the ways a red or an orange can paint a purple or a blue a different hue. “I don’t follow patterns because colors inform me in a way what to do with them.”

In “Beige #1,” the piece wasn’t about color at all, but instead about the relationships of the seams and how they intersect. “I just started mapping lines and free form — it’s a lot less color,” she said.

Tedesco said she tries to be disciplined about her work. Each piece takes about 40 to 80 hours. A bedroom in her Pendleton home serves as a studio.

Unlike her work office, which has clean lines and barely a trace of a paper trail from the day’s work, her studio showcases years of ideas. Quilting books stacked about 4-feet tall stand by the door. Scraps of a current orange, beige and black piece are pinned tall and high on the wall.

“When you make a piece of art, it’s a solitary activity. … That’s why I create art. It allows me to do something alone.”

Clemson team to compete in international Solar Decathlon

For the first time, Clemson will be among the 20 teams selected from universities around the world to compete at this fall’s international Solar Decathlon, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The competition, held every two years in Irvine, California, challenges teams to design and build a cost-effective, energy-efficient and visually appealing solar home, blending affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and design efficiency.

Comprising students from each of Clemson’s five colleges, along with dedicated faculty members, Clemson’s team has embraced the challenge to build and operate the home, named Indigo Pine, a three-bedroom, 1,000 square feet, net-zero energy, solar house that is cost-efficient in today’s market and comfortable in South Carolina and comparable climate zones. The name “Indigo Pine” originates from the home’s Southern roots. Indigo was historically grown in South Carolina while pine trees remain a vital cash crop to the state’s economy. The concept focuses on stitching together innovative building methods, Southern charm and local products in a home for a Southern family.

Clemson is taking the competition to a new level by choosing to “email” the house across the country then using those digital files to cut out the structural system using a CNC, a computer-controlled cutting machine. This system, referred to as Sim[PLY], allows Indigo Pine to be built virtually anywhere a CNC is available using off-the-shelf materials and handheld tools. Indigo Pine is challenging the construction and design world to think differently about light wood framing and construction in general.

Utilizing the Sim[PLY] system to email the house digitally from coast to coast rather than shipping the entire home by truck allows the team to vastly reduce the production of carbon dioxide emissions from the project. Furthermore, Team Clemson plans to construct not one but two versions of Indigo Pine, one in the South Carolina Botanical Garden this spring and the other in California this fall. This will allow for testing of the home’s functionality and will showcase the ability of the home to be built anywhere.

Clemson’s Solar Decathlon team is operating entirely on private funding from individuals and corporate sponsors.

The Unveiling of Indigo Pine: 

 

More information about Indigo Pine, including how to volunteer or donate.