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Annual W.Va. architecture award-winners announced

By Megan Workman

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."

Potts said they had only one concept for the $10.8 million project, which opened nearly four years after the fire destroyed the old courthouse.

They used stone in the building because stone is used "a lot in the area," he said.

The yellow brick in the new courthouse resembles the yellow and orange bricks the former building had, as well as those seen in surrounding buildings.

Potts said they mimicked the 1924 cupola that the old courthouse had in the new structure.

The 47,000-square-foot building has two- and three-story levels on purpose, Potts said.

"We had this need to have a bigger building, but you also have this desire to step it down ... so it doesn't completely overpower every building around it," Potts said.

The courthouse has a traditional feel, he said.

It also has an abundance of natural light. The courtrooms are located within the building so they don't have any windows, but most of the offices are located on the perimeter of the building to provide those employees with more light.

Potts said there was a "dissenting group in the community" who think the building may be "too much," but courthouses are important to any town, he said.

"Even though this building is 100 years later by-and-large than a lot of the courthouses in the state, why should the county seat there be less of a building because we're 100 years later?"

In addition to the top honors Saturday, judges presented five merit awards:

• WYK Associates of Clarksburg won three merit awards for achievement in architecture. Two of the awards were for its design of the Gabor Folklife Center at Fairmont State University.

The $1.3 million, 6,900-square-foot facility serves as a classroom on the first floor and a "great room" on the second floor. The project was completed in September 2011.

WYK Associates removed a floor from the existing structure, which once served as Michael Kennedy's barn. In 1941, the original barn was converted into apartments and in 2006 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

WYK's third merit award was for an "un-built structure," the Shinnston Community Center.

The 17,500-square-foot building is scheduled to be completed in 2015 and will serve as a performing arts center, a 350-seat banquet hall, and a meeting and gathering space.

The building's architectures are using a solar design, locally sourced materials, and providing a minimal carbon footprint.

Sawmill blade-shaped semi-circular windows elaborate on the history of continuous mining. In the waiting area, reclaimed chairs from the previous building, the Rice Theater, were preserved and used.

• Edward Tucker Architects in Huntington won a merit award for their work on the Robert C. Byrd Rural Health and Clinical Education Center in Chapmanville. The facility is for the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and will house the Coalfield Health Center.

Jarrett Construction Services of Charleston completed the project in 2011.

• Silling Associates also picked up a merit award for designing the Raleigh County Judicial Center in Beckley.

The new center is located at the main intersection in downtown Beckley near the 1936 Raleigh County Courthouse and the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse.

The design includes a clock tower, a pedestrian walkway and a courthouse greenspace.

• McKinley Associates won the craftsmanship award for their stained glass window at the state government office building in Clarksburg.

The new office building is nearing completion and officials anticipate having a new building downtown will encourage others to revitalize. The stained glass window reflects the culture and history of the area.

The concept is to fabricate the window in the form of a "crazy" quilt using as much glass from West Virginia manufacturers as possible.

The focal point of the stained glass window, which was installed Feb. 13, is a West Virginia quilt star. The images surrounding the star refer to the courthouse that once stood in the town, a coal tipple, and arrowheads.Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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