Work by Mark Sartain

The Memorial Center
Daniel High School, Central, SC


As the final bell rings for classes to end, future businessmen, vocational experts, doctors, and lawyers ramble through the doors of Daniel High School. They are in a hurry to get home, to ballgames, practices, and after-school jobs. The future is wide open, so many opportunities to grasp, and decisions to make. What a great time in a young persons life.

However, something doesn't look right in the faces of many students. Mixed with visions of hope, a sad reflection takes presence. What is this out of place feeling?
Unfortunately this is due to the untimely demise of a young Daniel High student.

For a long time there has been ideas to build a memorial garden dedicated to all students who have past away while attending Daniel. Finally several current students at Daniel have decided that something needs to be done now. Something needs to get built. With desire and a crunch deadline the involved students are working hard on the garden every chance they get.

The garden is under construction in the courtyard of the school. It is completely enclosed with classroom windows on all sides. There are three doors for egress in and out of the space. It is typical of a high school courtyard with limited trees and shrubs that are in dire need of maintenance.

The objective is to create a private space of reflection in the middle of all the busyness that comes from school. The user of the garden needs to escape both external and internal noise. Students from classrooms should have only an exterior view of the garden, while a person inside the garden has the privacy to think, remember, or cry without feeling that everyone else in the school is watching them.

The concept of the presented design is based upon the work that the students have already done. They are assembling a fountain the geographic center of the courtyard. From there the circle continues with a path around the fountain and a planting area surrounding that. The proposed design, known as The Memorial Center, doesn't stray to far from that basic concept. It does however clarify the space with radial symmetry that starts with the three existing courtyard entrances.

The Memorial Center appears as a circular island in the courtyard, close to thirty-four feet in diameter. Theoretically designs that present themselves as an island to their surroundings are not good. In this case it works. It communicates that this is a special place. Also, the students building this are trying to complete it before they finish school. They should take their time and resources, and focus to create a really great concentrated space. The rest of the courtyard can be added too and worked on by the next class of students. If the initial garden is high quality it well help people catch a vision for improving the rest of the courtyard and maybe the school!

Three entrances to The Memorial Center are based on the three courtyard entrances. With implied paths leading to this new garden the user finds his own way to the space. The three entrances, gracefully covered by arbors, and the radial symmetry create three separate planting areas. There is a bench on the interior edge of each of these areas. The garden shouldn't be overcrowded with seating. This should be a reflective place, not a social jumble of noisy people.

The plants selected also define The Memorial Center as a reflective place. Defining evergreen borders and hedges was the main planting concept. Large evergreen shrubs behind the benches, including Fortune tea olives, Clyeras, and Camellias, accomplish privacy. Glossy Abelia creates a graceful hedge in each planting area, and unifies the three areas. There is also seasonal interest with the specimen trees Japanese Maples, Crape Myrtle, and Saucer Magnolias. Winter Daphne provides winter flowers and fragrance at each entrance, while Confederate Jasmine adds summer interest on each arbor. Rabitteye Blueberry adds winter color near the benches and attracts wildlife. The raised planter around the fountain burst with color from a mixture of pansy, vincas, tulips, and other annul and perennials. The Memorial Center looks good from the outside, but on the inside it is majestic.

The garden is also sustainable. The path is unconnected flat stone and gravel; this creates a pervious surface that allows water penetration back to the soil. The plants are mostly slow to moderate growers requiring less maintenance overtime. There are also plants that attract wildlife providing a natural habitat for birds and other creatures.

The students continue to work hard on their garden. The inspiration for it should not be overshadowed. It is a garden for the students, by the students. By the design of The Memorial Center hopefully they are inspired to create such a sacred space. When a person is in The Memorial Center they are enclosed and able to escape the external noise of school. With reflection, hopefully they forget for a moment everything except the person who meant so much to them and to their school.