Not to editorialize, but the Pulse Dome Project: Art and Design by Don ZanFagna exhibit at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is exceptional. If you haven’t seen it yet, do so before it closes on Dec. 8.

However, despite the gallery’s vivid collages of the artist’s dream of self-sustaining houses, we were most excited about a different aspect of the exhibition: the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston’s real-life pulse dome, which they were hoping to construct in Marion Square before the Thanksgiving break. As the City Paper detailed in its October cover story on ZanFagna, the Clemson students — led by professor and architect David Pastre — were hoping to build a bamboo dome and usable bridge over the park’s fountain. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned.

One major setback to the project, as detailed on the CAC’s Studio V blog (, had to do with the fountain itself. Apparently, though the bridge was approved by the city’s Design Review Committee, it wasn’t approved by the Washington Light Infantry, the actual owner of Marion Square. While scrambling for a new site was difficult enough for the students, it didn’t help that the dome suffered from structural problems that set the installation schedule back until after Thanksgiving. When it came time to construct the dome itself, the class found that bending the bamboo was not as easy as they had hoped. Consequently, with time running out, the project is not moving forward quite as planned. As a result of the delays, the nearly completed dome will be finished at the CAC’s workshop on the upper part of the peninsula, away from the public.

“I am able to step back now and see that the endless issues to troubleshoot and problem solve have made for a healthy semester of educational lessons that I know the students have benefitted from greatly and will continue to reflect upon for many years to come,” Pastre says.

The class will continue to document the process, and they plan to present a timeline and mind map detailing the 14-week process at the exhibition’s symposium this weekend. They will also create a digital version of the display. “My hope is that this display and presentation will express the obvious influences that Don ZanFagna’s research and work have had on the studio this semester and honor it,” Pastre says.

The pulse dome symposium, titled Bio-Logical Architecture: Past, Present, and Future, will take place at the Halsey (161 Calhoun St.) on Sat. Dec. 8 from 2-6 p.m. Admission is free. Visit for more. —Susan Cohen

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