SARA JOYCE, EIT
PROJECT COORDINATOR/CIVIL ENGINEERING
For me, the greatest reward of working in the construction industry is to see a completed project appreciated by those who use it every day. Recently, the design team for the new Mount Pleasant Academy, headed up by local architects (SMHa), received a letter from a student expressing her excitement about the prospect of attending the new facility this school year. After three years of the ups and downs that go along with bringing any project of this magnitude to fruition, this simple letter thanking us made it worthwhile.
In many respects, I understand this student’s enthusiasm for the new facility. The site design for MPA has been one of the most thought-provoking projects I have worked on since my start at SW+A and as cliché as it sounds, I do enjoy a challenge! Due to the constraints of the shape of the existing property, the proximity of the adjacent residential area, the Town of Mount Pleasant’s baseball fields, and approximately 8’ of fill that was required to meet flood zone elevations, we needed to come up with some creative grading solutions…especially for here in the Lowcountry. In the end, two major design elements were chosen to tie the new school back into the existing lay of the land.
The first design element is the hill that overlooks the Town’s baseball fields. The area not only adds a sense of connectivity and flow between the two properties, but also provides additional seating for the parents watching athletic games. It has also been noted that this area may bring endless entertainment for any kid with a cardboard box. The second element is the use of the stepped retaining walls to create the amphitheater at the rear of the school. The walls were designed with kid friendly heights in mind and a stage at the base so the area may be utilized as an outdoor classroom. Although, with unobstructed views to the marsh and out to the Sullivan’s Island lighthouse, it may be hard to keep the students’ attention!
The amphitheater and the hill to the playing fields are just two of the many aspects of MPA that make it unique. It is my hope that they will be used and appreciated for many years to come.