The Jasper is a 12-story, mixed-use building that features 219 rental units, 74,500 ft² of office space, 41,290 ft² of amenity space, and 25,500 ft² of retail space on the ground floor. The building wraps around a five-story, 524-space concealed parking garage. The development replaces a 15-story, postwar-era multifamily structure situated in the Harleston Village neighborhood in downtown Charleston, S.C.
Established in the 18th century, Harleston Village is peppered with Georgian and Italianate buildings on tree-lined streets, and it was important to project stakeholders that the new building be aesthetically compatible with its neighbors. The structure’s massing and detailing are reminiscent of the neoclassical structures found throughout downtown Charleston. The base, middle, and top are traditionally articulated with brick, stone, and vertically proportioned openings in the Charleston vernacular. Formal gardens and motor courts make up half of the property, enriching the streetscape, while abundant green roofs provide open space for tenants and residents. The building design is based on a “building in the park” concept, and the structure is positioned in the center of the site with generous setbacks from nearby streets. The tall residential tower has an elegant, simple center shaft and classical articulated upper levels that draw attention to the cornice and frieze details at the roof. The exterior of the entire building features an elegant palette of cast stone, brick, ornate steel, and aluminum, and upscale finishes accent the interior.
Architectural precast concrete panels were selected for the building’s exterior for three reasons. First, precast concrete gave the project team the ability to design and build traditional building elements and facade details that otherwise would not be possible in Charleston. Second, the speed of construction limited the impact of the project on neighbors. Third, the building envelope can withstand the coastal climate and extreme weather conditions.
Initially, brick cladding was proposed so that the new building would mesh aesthetically with other buildings in the area. However, given the height of the structure and the local scarcity of qualified skilled labor, ensuring consistent craftsmanship for this type of construction would have been a challenge. The use of precast concrete panels with an integrally cast, thin-brick veneer allowed the design team to match the details and charm of the downtown Charleston architecture. The project team chose tumbled thin brick to simulate the varied texture associated with hand-laid masonry veneer. The softened edges of the brick also provide a weathered and timeworn appearance similar to that of Charleston’s masonry buildings. The exposed precast concrete simulates the color and texture of limestone. Decorative cornices, medallions, and pilasters add another level of detail and sophistication. In addition to the tumbled thin brick, some of the precast concrete panels feature an acid-etched finish and flame-finished granite veneer.
Architectural Review Board
An appropriate facade design for the Jasper required an innovative solution as well as the approval of the Charleston Board of Architectural Review. Thin-brick-clad precast concrete panels had never been used before in a historical Charleston context, says architect John Bedell, AIA, senior architect with LS3P.
Initially, stakeholders were skeptical about the high-rise development in general and opposed the use of precast concrete in particular. A lengthy mock-up and review process was necessary to garner approvals. Ultimately, by incorporating contextual facade details traditionally found in older structures, the design team was able to deliver an iconic building that will set a standard for years to come.
The fenestration at the base of the building distinguishes the residential building entrance from the office and retail entrances. The residential porte cochere is constructed of precast concrete designed to mimic the look of cast stone with a granite base. Old-world charm is conveyed in the recesses in the elevations and in the colors, textures, and finishes.
Young professionals have flocked to the Jasper’s luxury apartments to enjoy the Harleston Village neighborhood as well as the fifth-floor amenity deck, which features a pool and views of the Charleston waterfront and peninsula. While the exterior has a traditional aesthetic, the interior provides 21st-century comforts and luxury conveniences.
The success of the architectural precast concrete strategy demonstrates that this type of design is an advantageous option for new buildings in historic contexts. Precast concrete can be used to create architectural elements that complement and enhance the built environment, and architectural precast concrete can reduce costs and accelerate construction. The ability to install the building envelope without scaffolding also reduces cost and time, and it minimizes construction debris as well as disruption to the neighborhood.