Castle Pinckney and Shute’s Folly Island played a significant role in Charleston’s fortification efforts during the colonial period. In the harbor the strategic placement of many forts (Sumter, Moultrie, Johnson, Pinckney) strengthened the U.S. coastal defenses against invasion. The harbor’s topography was intentionally manipulated to create an underwater landscape of trenches that forced attacking ships on a path that placed them in direct range of the forts’ cannons. This method of harbor protection proved successful as the only attack on the harbor never made it past the first two forts. Though Castle Pinckney was never in a significant historic battle, it is still very important to the system of harbor fortification.
Castle Pinckney has become The Artifact of Preserving Charleston harbor fortification. The large scale of the castle presents a unique opportunity for displaying it as opposed to how a typical museum presents it artifacts. If the castle is the historic artifact, comparatively the island becomes the museum and similar to a typical museum with a large archive, Shute’s Folly Island has an entire harbor that acts as an archive of fortification. By manipulating the island’s landscape, various lines of vision emerge to create an artifacting of Charleston’s fortification era for visitors.
Visitors of Shute’s Folly Island or the “museum” are introduced to the history of Charleston fortification in a fashion identical to the chronological order that attacking ships would be introduced to each defense fortress. As visitors traverse the museum, building components are used as a method to display the different harbor artifacts. The exhibit begins as tour boats arrive to the island on the same axis as Fort Moultrie. When visitors get off the boats they see their first display in the distance, a pavilion with a large exterior armature that exhibits Fort Moultrie. Inside the pavilion visitors are abruptly presented with a view to Fort Sumter, just as attackers were deceived by seeing Moultrie in the distance, but were met with the cannons of the unseen Sumter first. In the next pavilion, visitors are realigned with Fort Moultrie, the harbors second line of defense. The third pavilion is a small open-air structure that frames a view to where Fort Johnson once stood. Following this pavilion, visitor’s attentions are redirected to the island and towards the sally port of Castle Pinckney. Visitors then make their way atop the castle through a tunnel carved within the existing infill, continuing the chronological order that attacking ships would encounter. Visitors conclude their traverse at the Belvedere with a panoramic view of Charleston: the city invaders were in direct line to attack if able to pass Castle Pinckney.
The Pavilions on Shute’s Folly Island have a duality in preserving historic locale; they are displays that artifact fortification and their tectonic is a display that artifacts the materiality of the region. The buildings are constructed of concrete and tabby, a concrete with an oyster shell aggregate that was used in construction during the fortification era. Rebar materializes from the concrete structures to create interior screens or boundaries for the traverse. In the landscape, the rebar formalizes into gabions or retaining walls to display local ecology. To generate water needs for the visitors, a cistern collects water for toilet flushing and a desalination system generates the potable water needs. Energy needs are hydropower-generated through a tidal barrage system that evokes its process with semi-diurnal water features. The Artifact of Preserving Charleston fortification through the artifacted traverse provokes conventional learning by maintaining an identity true to the island while becoming a signifier for the harbor defense progression.