McMillan Pazdan Smith’s Xin Gao is the 2023 recipient of an American Institute of Architects – South Carolina Student Design Award.
Gao and her design partners, Josiah Kinney and Zach Si, designed a base command center to meet the needs of the growing force of the US Coast Guard based in the greater Charleston Area.
Designing the base command building required an understanding of design solutions for flood zones and other climate activity prevalent in this region. “In any project there are always problems to be solved, such as flooding in this particular site. Design should solve these issues and improve user experience and public engagement,” Gao said. She and her team included porches and columns holding up an overhanging roof to ensure that the base matched the style of buildings already found in this region. The project construction materials call for 60% of the building to be made of mass timber, a decision that should significantly reduce the building’s environmental impact—including avoiding up to 426 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
The layout blends interior and exterior, incorporate many passive cooling and heating strategies. Additionally, extensive research and innovative design was devoted to creating an office floorplan that could accommodate the needs of workers in a post-pandemic, flexible workspace. Work areas are designated on the diagram as being fully private, completely open, or somewhere in-between. There are designated areas for private single office space, small group huddles and flexible communal spaces for group meetings and socialization.
Presented annually, AIA SC’s Student Design Award recognizes exemplary projects completed by students enrolled in an architecture degree program in pursuit of a degree or academic credit. Projects must be sponsored by a professor or the student’s academic institution. A jury of architects and designers from outside South Carolina select the year’s winning projects.
Gao graduated with her master’s in architecture from Clemson University (2022). She is a member of McMillan Pazdan Smith’s higher education team, working out of the firm’s Columbia studio. She looks forward to being able to apply what she has learned about sustainable design and flexible spaces to her work on McMillan Pazdan Smith’s numerous college and university projects.
About McMillan Pazdan Smith
McMillan Pazdan Smith (MPS) is an architecture, advisory services, planning, and interior design firm. Practicing since 1955, the firm currently has eight offices throughout the Southeast. As a community-based firm, MPS is driven by a collaborative culture, creative client solutions, and design excellence. With over 100 AIA awards since 2000, the firm’s purpose is to reimagine what’s possible and create meaningful and lasting impact for the good of all.
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