American College of the Building Arts

acba.edu This combination of education, training, and access to highly experienced faculty is available nowhere else in the United States.

The American College of the Building Arts (ACBA) is dedicated to educating the next generation of building artisans and to preserving the building arts in a manner never before seen in America. Under the direction of our experienced faculty, students have the opportunity to receive a quality liberal arts education while they learn the skills needed to excel in their chosen field.

Operating as usual

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 06/17/2024

Rounding up all of our graduating students' capstone projects because they all need a permanent spot on the feed! We've seen some incredible work this semester and we're thrilled to share it with the world. Huge congratulations go to our students... we're so proud of all you've accomplished!

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 06/14/2024

This semester, Professor Kester and xx year plaster students went on a local site visit to Saint Thomas Cemetery to observe the plaster walls of the 1819 structure.
ACBA students’ community involvement is ongoing and allows a mutually beneficial relationship between the historic buildings in the area and the students who need real world experience.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 06/11/2024

17 ACBA students recently embarked on a summer study abroad to Greece where they visited Greece’s greatest archeological sites, met craftsmen, and experienced the beauty of the mountains, sea, and Greek culture. Starting in Athens, students traveled to 9 different cities. Sounds like quite a memorable summer, doesn't it?! Head to stories to see more of our student's adventures abroad!

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 06/07/2024

ACBA students have scattered for summer, but these empty halls are alive with their work. This gorgeous wood paneling, for example, is student-made by the carpentry class who crafted it during their junior year and installed it in the fall of their senior year before graduating this May. We hope everyone enjoys a well-deserved summer, but we sure can't wait for students to be back in August, buzzing around and creating incredible work.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 06/05/2024

Students finished the year strong with exceptional final projects and critiques. We commend all their hard work this year! Happy summer to all students and cheers to you on a job well done!

Images shown are of Classical Architecture students presenting their final projects to a jury of architecture professionals for their final critiques.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 05/31/2024

Real world experience takes shape in this student-led project at nearby Milford Plantation.

Marcus Damwerth, Chair of Architectural Carpentry, along with a team of students, built and installed new doors on the historic water tower at Milford Plantation (1845). For this job, the new doors had to match the curve of the water tower itself, first requiring the doors to be coopered and made to match the conical shape of the tower… not a single straight and square piece can be found on the final product!

Using traditional joinery and structural wood protection like weepholes and ventilation to keep the wood dry, the structural integrity of the doors will remain intact for another 180 years or so.

05/24/2024

The due date for new student applications is fast approaching (just one week away!). Mark your calendars: May 31st is the deadline to submit. Have questions about your application, want to chat with a department chair, or talk to an admissions counselor? Send an email to [email protected] or send us a DM.

05/24/2024

The due date for new student applications is fast approaching (just one week away!).🗓️Mark your calendars: May 31st is the deadline to submit. Have questions about your application, want to chat with a department chair, or talk to an admissions counselor? Send an email to mailto:[email protected] or send us a DM. Head to stories to get the details!

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 05/22/2024

Congratulations to our graduates! 🎓👏 What an inspiring graduation ceremony we had this past weekend; still can’t believe the school year is finished. Between looking back at all the students’ growth and looking forward to all their future accomplishments, we’re filled with awe and wish our graduating seniors all the best!

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 05/20/2024

Ready, aim, fire! First and second year wood students learn the basics of working with wood through a variety of projects before choosing to focus on either architectural carpentry or timber framing their junior year. Here, first year wood students recreate historic cannon carriages for Charles Towne Landing as one of their introductory projects in the field.

05/18/2024

Awestruck by another incredible Capstone Reception. Always highly anticipated and worth the wait, our Capstone Reception is an evening together, enjoying the seniors’ final capstone projects. What a special moment to gather as a student body before graduating students embark on their careers in the building arts, inspiring the upcoming students to further improve upon their craft. Seniors, we are amazed by all you’ve accomplished during your time at ACBA.

Stay tuned as we share more about each capstone project in the coming weeks!

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 05/16/2024

Education through replication ⚒️ By diligently practicing these time-honored techniques, students learn by replicating the intricacy and artistry of others to reveal the figure beneath the stone.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 05/14/2024

Second-year wood students have successfully concluded their semester.🪚

Throughout this spring semester, these students worked in groups to design, lay out, and construct two staircases, including a winder staircase. Each wood student completes one semester dedicated to staircases, which enables them to enhance their skills through hands-on practice, develop their drawing and layout abilities, and gain invaluable experience. This experience serves as a solid foundation for their future endeavors in the field.

05/09/2024

Join us on May 17 for our annual Capstone Reception, where seniors will showcase the culmination of their hard work at ACBA! Explore the impressive array of final capstone projects crafted by our seniors. All are welcome to attend. See you there!

05/09/2024

Join us on May 17 for our annual Capstone Reception, where seniors will showcase the culmination of their hard work at ACBA! Explore the impressive array of final capstone projects crafted by our seniors. All are welcome to attend. See you there!

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 05/06/2024

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, but a day doesn’t go by when we aren’t grateful for the ACBA faculty. Individually, they are masters at the top of their craft who have stepped into teaching positions in order to educate the next generation of makers. Together, they are fostering growth and encouraging creativity in each student.

To our incredible teachers, thank you today and thank you always.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 05/05/2024

"Dare to experiment, consider any urge, if in a new direction all the better." —Edward Weston

At ACBA, students across all craft specializations engage in constant hands-on learning. Using ACBA as their blank canvas, they actively practice the diverse techniques of their craft, experiment with new processes, hone their skills, and flourish in their field of study.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 04/29/2024

Final projects are well underway this spring. In the stone carving shop, Harrison Ogburn, junior stone carver, meticulously refines his replication of a full-scale carving of Queen Eleanor using the centuries-old pointing technique. Harrison will continue practice on his craft this summer during his externship at Worcester Cathedral. Head to stories to see his progress on the project!

04/26/2024

As the semester winds down, classical architecture students are in the thick of putting finishing touches on their final projects, gearing up for the big moment: the final critique in just one week. It's not just about feedback—it's a chance for them to show off their creative chops, explain why they made certain design calls, and stand up for their vision. With each critique, they're getting a sneak peek into a career in architecture, where presenting and defending their work is a necessary part of the process.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 04/24/2024

Capstone progress report from blacksmithing senior whose work on the Omniscience sculpture at the Gibbes Museum was featured here earlier this year. Paul is crafting a hand forged 3' x 7' door with a Roman arch inspired by Bottaro. Paul's Capstone project is the culmination of his time at ACBA, and it is sure to be both a showcase of his technical skill as well as his creative talent. See the project for yourself at the Capstone Reception on May 17th!

04/19/2024

Professor Steve Kester, Chair of Plaster at ACBA, emphasizes, "Most people think of plaster as flatwork like walls and ceilings, but plaster encompasses so much more..."

Stephen Kester's passion for preservation and restoration began early, accompanying his father to local properties in Northeast Pennsylvania. There, he discovered intricate details embedded in ornate plaster ceilings, crown molding, and wooden staircases, sparking a career that spans over 50 years.

In the 1980s, Professor Kester managed a local drywall and plaster company before starting his own restoration business in 1993. His expertise has been instrumental in the restoration of homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and he holds "Expert" certificates from the Building Science Corporation in Roofing, Stucco, and Moisture Management.

Professor Kester joined ACBA in 2021, bringing decades of experience from Northeast Pennsylvania. His immediate impact as a teacher reflects his dedication to preserving and restoring craftsmanship. Beyond teaching, Professor Kester remains active in preservation, restoration, and new builds, earning a reputation as a leader in the field.

Today, as the Plaster Chairman at ACBA, Professor Kester passes down his knowledge and skillset in the art of plaster to younger generations, ensuring the legacy of craftsmanship endures.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 04/12/2024

As part of their Researching and Documenting Buildings preservation course, taught by Professor of Historic Preservation, Christina Butler, sophomore students spend the semester writing full preservation plans for two Charleston area sites. This spring, students are focused on The Knights of Columbus Building (1907) downtown and St. John's Catholic Church (1929) in Park Circle.

Each project begins with site visits, measuring, and condition assessments. Students then delve deeper into each project's specifics by way of in-class workshops, lectures, and trips to various regional archives. By semester's end, their work culminates info full preservation plans for each building, providing the sites' stewards with condition assessments and remediation plans to restore and preserve each structure for future generations.
This real-life experience serves a dual purpose: giving back to our community while offering students dynamic training in their field of expertise.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 04/09/2024

This semester, stone carving students Albert Garone and Grace Brown spent their spring break in France working with the Compagnons du Devoir, where they honed their craft alongside their peers and counterparts from around the world.

Compagnons du Devoir, the French organization of traditional craftsmen and artisans, has been active since the Medieval Ages. Today, it continues to be the preeminent destination for technical training, education, development, and community within the traditional building trades.

World-class training and experience is part of what makes the ACBA education relevant for top talent not only in Charleston but all over the globe.

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 04/06/2024

It's National Library Day and we're feeling especially bookish. Thankfully, we've got the Byrne-Diderot Library, home to a collection of over 17,000 books, DVDs, catalogs, and current and historical periodicals focused on the six building trades under the ACBA umbrella.

A highlight within the greater collection is our growing Jefferson Library, comprising copies of books from the private library of America's third president. Over the past 20 years, ACBA has acquired early editions of Jefferson's principal books on architecture and the building arts.

Our students' greater understanding of architectural and building history, we believe, will inform their technique and practice as well-informed artisans. The more texts we can provide, the better we're laying the foundation for best-in-class talent.

04/04/2024

If you've come to to learn the nearly lost art of delicate, decorative plaster, you'll want to know Angela Cabán. Her official title is Professor of Decorative Arts & Faux Finishes, although she is quick to stress the vital role of ACBA's unique tandem approach to higher education in traditional trades.

"It's not your normal 'tradeschool', right? We're trying to also teach languages and literature and art historty and design and architecture. We're bringing it all together," Cabán has said.

Coursework under Cabán's guidance begins once plaster students have a comprehensive understanding of art history, techniques, architectural methods, and material science.

One of her electives, Decorative Painting Grotesca, culminates in the students' completion of two multi-colored Grotesca panels. In the process, over the semester, students broaden their knowledge of materials, tools, and the preparation of substrates and paint.

Within the framework of the course, Cabán points out the impetus for students to refine their design sensibilities so their skills can evolve and further fuel their personal creative process and journey of expression.

04/03/2024

Explore the extraordinary world of ACBA at our Open House on April 13th! 🏫 Join us for an immersive experience—tour our campus, talk with passionate students, connect with professors, and uncover the essence of our unique learning hub in the heart of Charleston. See you there!

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 03/28/2024

By definition, a replica is an exact reproduction, or a copy exact in all its details. When commissioned to replicate the shutters for this historic Charleston home, architectural carpentry students set out to create 40 identical copies of the originals, down to the type of materials, treatment, and methods in which they were made.

This week, the students installed the shutters on the historic home to complete the project. Should be a few hundred years before this house needs new shutters!

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 03/26/2024

Site visit with Professor Matrangola's Construction Management class! 🏗️ Students were treated to an exclusive tour of the 282-unit mixed-use project at 40 Line St. From scheduling to programming to constructibility, they gained valuable insights into both the adaptive reuse segment of the project and the new nine-story building. Thank you to Lifestyle Communities for taking us along and sharing the challenges and successes that come with the over $140M project. A truly enriching experience that illuminated the complexities and rewards of large-scale construction projects.🚧

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 03/20/2024

Externships are a crucial component of the student experience at ACBA, offering hands-on work in real world scenarios across the globe.
Following her freshman year, stonemasonry student, Tatum Connor, was granted an opportunity to work at Lincoln Cathedral, one of the finest medieval cathedrals in the UK.

While on-site during Summer 2023, Tatum used her ACBA experience to further develop her skills in banker work while also gaining hands-on experience in various aspects of stonemasonry including raking out, repointing, and stone fixing, both on the banker and on-site. She also learned the art of copy carving where she uses an apprentice panel and copies the motif onto a blank stone.

Known for its massive size and stone features, both sculptural and structural, Lincoln Cathedral is rumored to use over 100 tons of site-sourced limestone each year for its ongoing restoration efforts. We know Tatum had no shortage of trade-specific work to do last summer! Where would your dream externship take you??

Photos from American College of the Building Arts's post 03/18/2024

Thank you to for having us at the recent Bubbles & Blooms series of events. What an honor to share about ACBA and our students' work at the event, amid the blossoming formal gardens of the Nathaniel Russell house. Catch us at the next one on March 23rd!

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Videos (show all)

Classical architecture senior, Michael Vanderlip, guides us through the development of his terminal project: a Greek res...
Honored to be a part of the @pbs film Craftspeople of Charleston, showcasing how our community preserves historic tradit...
Sophomore stone carving student, Albert Garone, shares about his exciting opportunity to create a bust of Thomas Jeffers...
Blacksmith student, Maverick Longo, tells us about gaining confidence in his craft and provides insight into the support...
Blacksmith student, Maverick Longo, tells us about gaining confidence in his craft and provides insight into the support...
Freshmen Classical architecture and design students tour Charleston with Professor Duncan‘s Foundations I (Orders) Studi...
Congratulations on 75 years, Historic Charleston Foundation! You’re just getting started! Historic Charleston Foundation
One of our Sophomore plaster student’s busy working on an ornamental plaster project. #acba_charleston #plaster #ornamen...
ACBA - Blacksmithing
Dovetail jointery!

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649 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC
29403

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Monday 9am - 5pm
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Wednesday 9am - 5pm
Thursday 9am - 5pm
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