Clemson’s new $87.5M business school is borrowing design tips from Mother Nature

Reclaimed wood grilles will provide additional warmth to a quiet study lounge in the new building. Image Credit: LS3P/Clemson University.

Once complete, Clemson University’s new College of Business building will create what school officials say could be one of the region’s most innovative think tanks, a collaborative space that’s designed to foster partnerships between academics and industry and provide opportunities for cutting-edge research.

The 180,000-square-foot building across from Bowman Field will offer roughly double the amount of classroom and faculty office space that the College of Business currently occupies in Sirrine Hall. In addition to featuring about 20 classrooms, the building is expected to house 150 faculty and staff support offices, the college’s institutes, and numerous shared-learning spaces throughout.

Ironically, though, while the five-story building will include a set of towers with an atrium that’s made of brick and glass, the design of its most prominent indoor features will be rooted in one of the world’s key natural resources — trees.

More than 6,500 board feet of reclaimed lumber is being incorporated in the building to add warmth and functionality, according to Laura Twomey, an interior designer with the Greenville office of LS3P, the building’s architect.

The lumber was harvested from white and red oak trees that once stood on the hillside across from Bowman Field, the historic grassy area in front of Tillman Hall and Sikes Hall, which was originally the parade ground for Clemson cadets and home of the university’s first football game.

“I think it was very mindful of the university to incorporate a resource from the building site’s past into its future,” Twomey said in a news release. “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.”

A feature of the plaza will be terrazzo lounging steps inset with reclaimed wood. Image Credit: LS3P/Clemson University.

Twomey said the reclaimed lumber will be incorporated in high-traffic areas throughout the building, with wood accents visible in both of the towers, the atrium, the dean’s office, and the second floor, where students and staff enter the building.

The lumber will also be used to add wood insets to the building’s monumental staircase, which will act as oversized seating areas in the atrium and outdoor plaza, according to Twomey. Quarter-sawn oak will be crafted into flooring for the dean’s office.

“Wood products will be used for everything from flooring and wall accents, to furniture and inlays,” Twomey said. “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.”

Clemson has hired Greenville-based Tidewater Lumber to create the wood products for the building’s interior. Once the wood has been cut in the sawmill, the company will kiln-dry it and create the finished flooring, accents, and furniture.

The university plans to replace the trees with up to 150 new trees, including varieties of paperbarks, red maples, magnolias, ginkgos, tupelos, and red and white oaks.

Tidewater manager Louis Voorhees said the university’s “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.”

Completion of the $87.5 million building is tentatively scheduled for 2020.

LMN Architects of Seattle is designing the building in collaboration with LS3P. Other members of the project team include DPR Construction and OLIN landscape architecture.

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