The new George Dean Johnson, Jr. School of Business & Economics, affectionately known as “The George”, is a new-construction, three-story academic facility for the Upstate campus of the University of South Carolina in downtown Spartanburg. The building is very purposefully located in downtown Spartanburg as part of the community’s plan to revitalize its urban core.
Sited next to the Chapman Cultural Center the building is designed to promote pedestrianism. The vernacular chosen for the exterior is a unique hybrid of collegiate gothic and South Carolina textile mill architecture. . The Flemish-bond patterned brick facade maintains the street edge, and uses an iron spot accent brick to brilliantly catch the light. The striking, octagonal four-story tower announces the University's presence, as well as the state of the world's finances on an LED stock-ticker.
"This building creates a new standard of quality for USC Upstate..."
- John C. Stockwell, Chancellor, USC Upstate [1994-2011]
Academic Space Design
The spaces on the interior of the building are organized around a two-story octagonal, sky lit lobby, with the classrooms facing the street to the south and the public galleries and faculty offices facing the private outdoor plaza to the north. Floored in terrazzo with motifs of world currencies traced in its patterns, the galleries display significant pieces from George Johnson's remarkable collection of art from the American south, and are furnished as gathering and study spaces. They are punctuated by small glass "break-out" rooms, ideal for the kind of small-group case-study work the students will be doing regularly. The galleries open to the north on a landscaped plaza with an adjoining amphitheater space. A shared parking structure forms the opposite enclosure for the space.
The George was envisioned and designed as a technology-rich environment that could serve the needs of the school from day one and through its projected growth. Accordingly, the program accommodates 10 technology-enhanced classrooms for 40 students each, a large tiered lecture hall for 80 students, a dedicated stock trading room with LED stock ticker, approximately 30 faculty offices, a series of small breakout rooms and several large public spaces for gathering and informal learning.
Short- and Long-Term Economics
The design team employed a number of different, yet consistently durable, materials on the different facades of The George. The street-facing south-façade is designed with a well-detailed palette of dark brick and complimenting cast-stone with fenestration appealing to the passing pedestrian. The north side, which faces a secluded courtyard and is less publicly visible, is constructed of a more economically efficient EIFS paneling with simplified detailing and window surrounds. This conscious material change reduced up-front costs without compromising the building’s aesthetic.
Working closely with University and School of Business stakeholders, we identified medium-term need for additional space beyond the initial program. Our design incorporates this anticipated growth through the inclusion of shell space on the building’s third floor. This anticipation of needs saved the school several million dollars in future construction costs..