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Converse College's "Front Door"
By Marc Barnes, Kings English LLC

At Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C., Roebuck Wholesale Nursery and Landscaping installed the award-winning brick design for Johnson Plaza. The 2-1/4" x 4" x 8" square edge clay brick pavers are sand-set over a stone base in the pedestrian areas. The paver joints are swept with polymeric sand. The distinct paving patterns within the plaza space connect the area with the historic surrounding gardens. Broad granite steps, a granite band inscribed with the college's core values, and the centrally located Converse College seal inscribed in a single slab of granite enhance the historically meaningful space.

Pine Hall Brick products were selected for both the paving and for the seatwalls surrounding the plaza. The walls flank the accessible paths that link the upper plaza area with the rest of the college campus. Courtyard Beale Street and Old Hampton Modular bricks were chosen because their coloring best complemented the school's brick architecture.

Many students arriving for the first time at Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C., have an educational goal to be the best in their class. And when they get to Converse, they can draw inspiration out of the fact that the first thing they will see was the best in its own class.

Johnson Plaza, which was installed by Roebuck Wholesale Nursery and Landscaping, was commissioned by the president of the college to celebrate the private all-female college's 125th anniversary. The project won Best in Class for Paving/Landscaping in the 2015 Brick in Architecture competition by the Brick Industry Association.

The Johnson Plaza hardscape and its surrounding garden were a transformational project for the college. The idea behind the elliptical plaza was simple: Find a way to encourage pedestrian movement into and across what had been an unsightly and inaccessible landscape at the "front door" of the college campus. The project was designed as a bridge between the surrounding campus landscapes and facilities. It generates daily interaction among students, faculty and administration. Today, it serves as the setting for newly established campus traditions, significant campus events and informal gatherings.

The clay brick vehicular drop-off and plaza, clay brick garden pathways and edging, and brick seatwalls successfully reinforce the plaza's historic context. Brick detailing and paving patterns take cues from many of Converse College's historic gardens and are used to delineate vehicular and pedestrian zones. The clay pavers effectively soften the visual and physical impact of vehicular traffic across the space. Within the space, the clay brick pavers and seatwalls blend seamlessly with the historic architecture and gateway structures.

Pine Hall Brick's Courtyard Beale Street paver and Old Hampton Modular face brick were selected to complement the brick hues of the surrounding buildings. Distinct paving patterns within the plaza spaces and connecting brick pathways, header banding, and details in the garden curb all contribute to the historic garden experience. Broad granite steps, a granite band inscribed with the college's core values, and the Converse seal inscribed in a single slab of granite further enhance this historically meaningful space.

The project serves function as well as form. Interlocking paving patterns, designed to perform under frequent vehicular traffic, are used at the speed table to extend the pedestrian experience of the upper plaza across the vehicular way. Brick seatwalls flank accessible paths, which provide access to the lower plaza. Vehicular thresholds and pedestrian crosswalks incorporate 2-1/4" x 4" x 8" square edge clay bricks, sand-set over a 6" concrete base and restrained by flush concrete ribbon curbing. The same sand-set paver is laid over a stone base at the pedestrian plazas and the connecting garden pathways. Paver joints in both applications are swept with polymeric sand.

Day or night, once students, faculty, or visitors from the community have arrived at Converse College, they get an idea of what the place is about. It's there, in the lower part of Johnson Plaza. What's expected of those in this place is actually carved in stone, out there for all to see: "Excellence. Integrity. Exploration. Diversity. Respect. Community. Progress."

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October 17, 2019, 9:03 am PDT

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