Cultural center relies on traditional limestone

September 2, 2008
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The Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, SC, was recently built to house eight independent organizations, and included the use of limestone from Indiana Limestone Co. of Bedford, IN, for exterior elements.


The Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, SC, was recently built to house eight independent organizations, including an Art Museum, a History Museum, a Music Foundation, a Science Center, an Arts Guild, the Partnership of Greater Spartanburg, a Ballet School and a 500-seat theater. The $47 million campus included the use of limestone from Indiana Limestone Co. of Bedford, IN, for exterior elements.

The project goal, according to Gregory Hoss, Project Manager with David M. Schwarz/Architectural Services, Inc. of Washington, DC, was to create a center for the community in which the arts groups could come together and flourish and be a focal point for the center of Spartanburg. The facility, which according to the firm was intended to become one of the anchors of a viable and vibrant downtown, was also designed in a manner that would promote interaction between groups of users.

The selection of Indiana limestone was an obvious material choice for a few reasons, according to the architect. “There is a tradition of using Indiana limestone in downtown Spartanburg, and we wanted to continue that,” he said. “The client was also interested in this particular material because Indiana limestone has traditionally been used on timeless buildings, and also because it gave the project a sense of gravitas.”

In general, stone was used for its timelessness, long-term durability and because it gave the project a sense of permanence, according to Hoss. “We spent a lot of time coordinating with the contractor and the stone installer in terms of making sure that the details between the stone and brick were detailed correctly,” he explained.

According to Hoss, limestone was used to clad the entire exterior facade of the Theater Building, while other buildings used the material for elements such as the trim, base and columns.

Typical panels measured 16 inches high x 3 to 4 feet long x 4 inches thick. “The columns on the portico are solid limestone, load-bearing columns constructed in approximately 6-foot-tall by 6-foot-diameter drums of stone,” the architect explained. “The columns have a steel dowel connecting them through the middle of the column for earthquake requirements. The side portico columns are similarly solid limestone pieces, but feature a smaller 2-foot diameter. On the wing buildings, which are clad mostly in brick, we used Indiana limestone trim around all of the windows and for the base.”

Furthermore, paving throughout the portico area features 24- x 24-inch pieces of Bluestone.

The architect went on to say that construction cost was always a challenge for the Chapman Cultural Center. “We prioritized where the dollars were spent so that the public spaces were given priority in using the most durable and timeless materials,” he said. “As you get into some of the secondary spaces like classrooms, we used materials that were still durable, but that had less of a finished appearance than stone, such as stained concrete and painted walls.”

“In order to achieve the client’s modest budget, the design team split the facility into three structures: two wings that house flexible loft-like spaces, and a theater building that houses the theater program and main public lobby,” according to a design statement from David M. Schwarz/Architectural Services, Inc. “The two buildings maintain unity through brick and limestone facades, which respond to the city’s rich architectural heritage. Operationally, the wings allow maximum flexibility to change programs over time, yet the location of common areas provides each independent organization much great amenities than would otherwise be possible. The three buildings surround an open public plaza, which further encourages community interaction with the arts and helps to define the new heart of downtown Spartanburg.”

Construction on the 82,000-square-foot Chapman Cultural Center began in the Fall of 2005, and the Grand Opening ceremony was held on October 3, 2007.

“The project has been phenomenally well received and embraced by the Spartanburg community,” said Hoss. “The eight art institutions that came together to be housed in the facility are seeing growth beyond what they even expected in terms of multiple uses of the building. A parent can drop their child off for ballet school and walk right into an art museum.

“We try to get clients to use natural material as much as possible in our buildings, so when we have the opportunity to use it, we are extremely happy because we know it will look better in time and last a lifetime, so that is always important to us,” he concluded.       

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