Creating A Campus Center

The first of two phases, the Alumni Plaza is set over the 36-foot-wide, 5-foot-deep reinforced concrete foundation for the future 84-foot-tall clock tower.

The tower footprint will be 14 feet x 14 feet with an open base to minimize visual obstruction and to encourage people to move around it. The tower base also provides an area for specialized activities, such as a green room for performances.

LED lighting gives the plaza a distinct personality at night.

The generous 100-foot diameter circular plaza is scaled to accommodate the tower and allow maintenance vehicles to move through the area, but the amenities and changes of vertical scale keep the space pedestrian-friendly.

The area was raised approximately 2 feet to bring the plaza out of a natural bowl to its more prominent level. Full advantage was taken of the natural southern slope of the quadrangle. Steps on the southern side rise gently to provide a platform for activities and performances, while the north side of the upper plaza is flush to accommodate universal accessibility.

The upper plaza features were planned to ensure minimal disruption during the future tower construction.

Fifteen-foot-tall colorful banners add vibrancy and vertical scale to the space. The banner designs emphasize the college’s amenities and goals with graphic silhouettes and graduated bright colors.

Once the clock tower is in place, the banners will also provide a visual anchor and augment the pedestrian scale of the space.

Cast-stone steps wrap the upper plaza and tie into grade as it rises to the north. The distinct change of color and material emphasize this transition so pedestrians will recognize the stairs as they taper to flush.

There is a natural flow to the steps due to the 4-inch rise and 20-inch-wide tread. This combination avoids the awkward stilted-step sequence often found in plaza stair features. The generous width also allows students to walk side by side comfortably without feeling perched.

The creation of full-scale mockups allowed the designers to test the comfort and appearance of the steps and seat walls, and for the college to clearly understand what was being proposed.

3-D computer visualization and rendering were also employed; this was critical in studying such a significant space. Utilizing these design tools ensured that the installation looked exactly as the college expected and the designed components functioned well.

The curved cast-stone seat wall is elegantly simple, maintaining a monolithic appearance with a single, continuous recessed shadowline to draw the eye along the plaza.

The corner design is pushed inward and acts “hinge-like” to allow all of the acute wall junctions to appear visually the same, even though each is slightly different.

The choice of cast-stone material allows for this type of detailing and a smoother, more-refined finished product than precast concrete.

The walls are punctuated with recessed LED lights at the corners and every six linear feet, giving the plaza a distinct personality at night.

The seat height of 19 inches is comfortable for most users, and the generous 3-inch radius edge creates a “softer” appearance that also discourages the use of skateboards.

The solid-color clay pavers are set in a radial pattern, accentuated with bands of multi-colored, narrow boardwalk pavers. The use of standard Holland pavers provides a simple and cost-effective donor paver-engraving and placement program.

Randomly placed bands of natural limestone reinforce the circular pattern and provide for limitless lengths of donor opportunities. The limestone is dimensioned to slip in between paver courses, allowing for ease of future installations.

The new Alumni Plaza is a representation of what SMC desires its campus environment to be–a place for students and faculty to merge, a place to take a break between classes, a place to conduct classes outside, a place to attend performances and activities, and a place for graduates to have their photos taken with family and friends to remember their college experiences.

It is a place to find connection.

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