CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For more than 10 years, Ted Shriver heard plenty of people voice their opposition for the consolidation of four aging Mingo County high schools.
Shriver, co-owner of Charleston-based Williamson Shriver Architects and lead architect for the new Mingo Central High School, said there was so much controversy from the community because they wanted to preserve their history instead of tearing the schools down.
"There's probably still some who wish that they had the old high school," Shriver said.
Architect Tom Potts of Silling Associates said some Berkeley Springs residents were against building a new county courthouse after the town's original one was destroyed in a 2006 fire.
If the residents could have put the old courthouse right back in its place, they would have, Potts said.
Someone liked the projects, though. Both won top honors Saturday at the 2013 AIA West Virginia Design Awards Program, held at the Embassy Suites hotel in Charleston. The annual awards, sponsored by the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects, recognize the best efforts of members of the group.
AECOM, based in Kansas City, Mo., also won top honors for excellence in architecture for its design of the West Virginia University basketball practice facility in Morgantown.
Fourteen architects across the state submitted 24 projects and one craftsmanship design entry into this year's competition.
Williamson Shriver Architects went through "numerous" concepts for the new Mingo Central High School in Delbarton, Shriver said.
A coal company donated 80 acres of land for the project during the development of King Coal Highway. As they changed the design of the highway, different portions of property became unavailable, which required the architects to move the school's site a couple of times, Shriver said.
Talks for the consolidation of the four Mingo County high schools started in 2000, Shriver said, but construction didn't begin until 2009.
Searching for the appropriate space and disapproval from the community delayed the project, Shriver said. Finding enough money took years, too.
The $32 million, 176,000-square-foot building finally welcomed students in August of last year.
"To find adequate space for a high school, it's difficult to find that amount of flat land because it's in the valley with the rivers and railroads and flood plains or on mountaintops," Shriver said.
"It was difficult working through it knowing there were individuals there against it and getting information out of the group collectively to be able to design a facility that meets the needs."
Today, 800 students study in the school. Before the central school was built, there were about 200 students in four buildings, Shriver said.
Students at Mingo Central High walk up to a predominantly brick exterior with 11 large columns and a partial covering where students can wait for the bus.
A commons area near the entrance is a multi-use space where students can eat or host meetings. A 675-seat auditorium is near the commons area.
A 2,000-seat oversized gymnasium -- with a lower and upper level, which has a running track on top -- is located next to the auxiliary gym where students can practice sports.
Shriver said they didn't want to use any colors that represented any of the four high schools that closed, Burch, Gilbert, Matewan, and Williamson high schools.
The Miners, the school's new mascot, have blue, silver and black colors throughout the building.
The comprehensive career and technology center, located at the south end of the building, provides even more options for students, Shriver said.
"The students weren't able to take advantage of the many opportunities out there," he said. "It's incredible what's offered now because of the high school. Nobody likes change, but now they have adapted very well."
Potts said Berkeley Springs residents didn't want change, either. They wanted to maintain the town's culture when Charleston-based Silling Associates came in to start construction on the Morgan County Courthouse in September 2008.
Potts and the other architects understood that.
"The site where the building sits is the most important intersection in the entire county ... from who we are as a people," Potts said. "So to say, 'Oh forget the courthouse,' it just seems to me, you'd just be totally left with a lack of county identity and a lack of visual representation of county government.
"It was very important to put something that was iconic back in where the courthouse was."