NC A&T professor wins international competition to design new park in South Carolina

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EAST GREENSBORO, NC (February 10, 2022) – A faculty member at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has won an international competition for his design proposal for a new heritage-based planned public space in the Lowcountry from South Carolina.

The winning artwork was designed by W. Chris Harrison ’07assistant professor of natural sciences

resources and environmental design at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. His design will be used to create the John L. Scanlon Memorial Park near Charleston, SC

“It was a very compelling project for me,” said A&T coordinator Harrison. Landscape Architecture Program and 2007 A&T graduate. “Our program’s mission is to work on projects like this, to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice.”

by Harrison winning design as this planned half-acre park blends history and the natural world to tell the story of a swamp-edge community near Charleston Harbor. The area was once home to the Sewee Indians; the Gullah people, the descendants of slaves who live along the southeastern coast of the United States; and former slaves who settled there after the Civil War.

The proposed park design includes a spiral walkway that leads visitors to a spirit circle in the center of the park. There is also a weaving pavilion, which is a living sculpture of intertwined willows that resemble the baskets made by the Gullah people. The design also includes several cast bronze statues; the rice, cotton, and indigo plantations, which were once grown on nearby plantations; and virtual and augmented reality features allowing visitors to use their phones to hear the stories of these people and where they once lived.

Harrison called his proposal Praise House Park because he envisions the entire park as a sacred space that serves as a refuge, a gathering place, and a place for spiritual reflection. A house of worship was a simple wooden structure built by slaves that served as a center for many black communities during and after slavery.

“This place is about change, but the landscape is eternal,” Harrison said. “He is ubiquitous and connects us all through this time warp.”

The memorial park will be named after John Scanlon, a black carpenter who ran a cooperative association known as the Charleston Land Company. Scanlon and other former slaves purchased shares of the company for $10 each, and in 1868 purchased a 614-acre plantation.

Scanlon’s company laid out roads, residential land and farmland and eventually created a thriving, self-sufficient community known as Scanlonville. Around the 20and the inhabitants of the century had built dozens of houses, a park, a wharf, shops, nightclubs, a school, a hotel and a cemetery. Scanlonville had the largest black beach in the area, and its waterfront pavilion attracted popular musicians such as Louis Armstrong, James Brown, and Duke Ellington.

Except for a historical marker near the park site, not much remains of the old Scanlonville, an unincorporated community located in the town of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Ranch houses built by the descendants of Scanlonville’s early settlers.

Design competetion was sponsored by the East Cooper Civic Club Inc., owner of the park property, and co-sponsored by Charleston Audubon. The competition was administered by the Master’s Program in Resilient Urban Design at the Clemson University School of Architecture. The judging panel was made up of professors and design professionals from New York, Boston, Clemson and the West Coast. Harrison received $2,500 for her winning design, which was announced last summer.

Efforts to raise money to build the park are underway, said Edward Lee, a longtime Scanlonville resident who is president of the East Cooper Civic Club.

“(Harrison) did his research. He dug into our community,” said Lee, an A&T graduate in 1980. “Every element of his design was inspired by something that happened or is in Scanlonville.”

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