For more than 30 years, SeamonWhiteside has had the creativity and vision to bring thousands of projects into reality. As we celebrate this 30th anniversary, we are reminded of some of those Legacy Projects, one that comes to mind is Clemson University’s Military Heritage Plaza. This project was one of our first in the Upstate and our success in the area eventually led to the founding of the Greenville office.
In 1993, SeamonWhiteside (SW+) was commissioned by Clemson University to design a space that memorialized the Cadet Corps; an integral part of the University’s history. SW+’s Creative Director, Bill Eubanks worked directly with the classes of 1950-1953 to design the project as a place of reverence and reflection. The plaza recognizes the daily life of the cadet and the military contributions of Clemson’s alumni from the Spanish-American War to the Persian Gulf War. Through powerful art and landscape, the plaza seeks to convey history, as well as gratitude, to more than 10,000 Clemson men and women who have served in the armed forces.
“The memorial serves as a permanent reminder of Clemson heroes and a fitting tribute to the values we Americans hold dear,” said the Clemson Alumni Association.
SW+ worked in unison with two sculptors from San Diego, T.J. Dixon and James Nelson, to develop the vision for the space. The team held brainstorming sessions for several days and asked Clemson alumni to provide recommendations on what the space should represent. When the team began reading through the notes, inspiration was found in the common theme that Clemson University “molded men”. It was through the former cadets’ handwritten notes, letters and ideas that the design team began to also notice other keywords such as loyalty, integrity and duty. Based on that inspiration, the shared experience of the cadets, the concept began to take shape.
Prior to the brick being laid and concrete poured, SW+ worked alongside local arborists to ensure the integrity of the surrounding landscape would remain intact with the addition of the plaza. The project took one year from start to finish. Since its completion, it has become a cornerstone of the university’s landscape, and a spiritual place for many who visit.
We were able to sit down with Eubanks to gain insights into the project and learned some interesting anecdotes along the way. You may be surprised about some of the things you read…
- The life-size sculpture of the Clemson cadet was positioned in a pose that Eubanks modeled himself. The cadet carries a book to speak to the academic focus of the university.
- Eubanks wanted the cadet to look as real as possible walking across the brick ground, so the cadet does not have a base. Instead, two stainless steel rods extend from his feet into the ground and is set with epoxy. Eubanks remembers lying on the ground as he watched the contractor scrape epoxy from the statue’s feet so it looked perfectly finished. We do anything for perfection.
- Clemson received the first congressional Medal of Honor in history given to an educational institution. Because of this prestigious award, SW+ worked this into the design and created a replica congressional Medal into the Lucite display wall. The real medal is displayed in the alumni center.
- The footprints outlined on the park’s steps were created in clay during Homecoming Weekend by actual cadets from that era. When a group stands on the footprints, they are in a formal military formation.
- On the edge of Bowman field stands two brick columns with molds of cadet men. To this day, many students try and fit into the molds – the designers’ intention, to walk in their shoes.
Eubanks remembers the project fondly saying, “As a designer, it’s so gratifying when a place you’ve designed becomes a place that people love. Beyond that, the Military Heritage Plaza is one of the most revered spaces at Clemson, for that I am most proud.”
SW+ received multiple honors upon the completion of the project including, an Honor Award for Design Excellence from SCASLA (1997), Merit Award from the Southeast Region of ASLA (1999) and a President’s Award by the Brick Association of the Carolinas (2002).