SeamonWhiteside, a full-service site firm with offices throughout the Carolinas, recently completed a seven-year site design and landscape architecture project in partnership with Hood Design Studio for the International African American Museum in Charleston. After more than two decades of planning, fundraising, and construction efforts, the museum celebrated its grand opening on June 27.
As the landscape architect of record, SeamonWhiteside brought creative director Walter Hood and the Hood Design Studio team’s unique and intentional design ideas to life for the museum. From the Tide Tribute to the African Ancestors Memorial Garden, starting from the site itself, the significance of each design decision was carefully curated and installed, according to a news release.
“We are honored to have partnered with the prestigious Hood Design Studio to bring the artistry and storytelling in their designs to life,” said Gary Collins, vice president at SeamonWhiteside in the release. “Usually you expect the interior of a museum to be breathtaking, and while that’s true with IAAM, the exterior site is just as remarkable.”
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The museum is located 13 feet above the historic site of Gadsden’s Wharf, the port of arrival for nearly half of all enslaved Africans brought to North America. The design honors the history, impact and gravity of the stie through specific landscape and artistic selections, according to the release.
These installments include:
- African Ancestors Memorial Garden: Adjacent to the elevated museum is a palm grove and sweetgrass field. As part of the African Ancestor Memorial Garden, there are plants that are representative of Africa and Charleston, as well as stone stilo columns to reflect the deep-rooted history of African American culture in Charleston. Both Hood Design Studio and SeamonWhiteside wanted to create a garden that was reflective and tied both regions together.
- Tide Tribute: Built on embedded tiling figures over the Charleston Harbor, the water feature visually honors the enslaved people who laid shackled on ships coming to the United States. Twice a day, the tribute fills and empties with water to mimic the tide, revealing the shapes of those enslaved men, women, and children who arrived at that exact harbor. This slightly sloped installment was in a very technical and precise location designed by Hood Design Studio and SeamonWhiteside.
- Tabby-Based Columns: Being in the Lowcountry and wanting to reflect the early indigenous culture, a focus on coastal materials was at the forefront of every design. The columns that support the museum were formed using tabby, concrete made of oyster shells, and are indicative of traditional building methods of the coastal region.
- Stainless Steel Band: Accurate from geographical maps, a stainless steel band runs the entire angled width of the property to identify the exact parameters of where Gadsden Wharf was once established. The steel band includes engravings of various countries to honor the places that enslaved people came from.
- Footprint of Existing Building: On site of the museum is an outline of bricks that depict where a building known as the “Warehouse Wall” once laid on the Wharf years ago.