Competition results in winning design for Penn State Veterans Plaza

October 10, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Ennead Architects LLP, based in New York City, has won a competition to design the Penn State Veterans Plaza, the gift of the class of 2011.

Last November, more than 2,800 seniors voted to fund the memorial to honor Penn State veterans. The plaza will be located near the intersection of Pollock Road and the Henderson Mall, off the northeast corner of Old Main, on the University Park campus.

The 2011 Senior Class Gift Committee worked with the Office of Physical Plant to organize the design competition, the first such contest sponsored at Penn State.

Three nationally renowned design firms came to University Park and presented their proposals to the Veterans Plaza design review committee, which looked at the plans for feasibility, cost, appropriateness, alignment with the University and class gift missions, and representation of Penn State veterans, among other considerations.

Ennead Architects has received numerous awards for architectural excellence and is internationally recognized for its passionate commitment to sustainable design. The firm's projects have included Penn State Dickinson School of Law’s Lewis Katz Building, on the University Park campus, in 2008; the Yale University Art Gallery, Kahn Building renovation in 2010; the University of Michigan Biomedical Science Research Building in 2007; and the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in 2011, to name but a few.

"The Veterans Plaza has been designed to be both part of the campus circulation system, as a place to pause on the way to somewhere else, and to be a special, peaceful place apart, set at the edge of the trees and somewhat removed from the daily activity around it," said Rachel Prinkey, project manager in the Office of Physical Plant.

Preliminary plans for the Veterans Plaza feature a circular walkway and curved stone wall, centered around an artistic representation of a warrior’s shield, symbolizing honor and sacrifice. The shield itself will seem to "float" above the grass, its surface carved with a "rippling water" effect, to evoke a feeling of tranquility.

The curved wall will bear the inscription of a Greek phrase meaning “Either with it [your shield], or on it."

"This phrase is believed to have been spoken by Spartan mothers' to their sons, before battle," said Ben Witt, 2011 senior class gift chairperson. "According to ancient Spartan tradition, a warrior was never without his shield. He either returned home from battle alive, carrying his shield, or dead, carried upon it by his comrades."

The plaza’s curved wall will be named to honor Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a 1998 liberal arts graduate and the only Penn State alumnus to earn the Medal of Honor. Lt. Murphy, a Navy Seal, posthumously received the U.S. military's highest decoration for his actions in 2005 during the war in Afghanistan. To learn more about Lt. Murphy, visit online.

According to Senior Class Gift Adviser Jordan Ford, "So far, 2,670 graduates from the class of 2011 have given to the Senior Class Gift campaign, and we hopefully expect an additional 500 gifts from December 2011 graduates."

Seniors can make their gift at online.

In addition, University alumni and military supporters can choose to make a gift to support the “Penn State Veterans Plaza” online.

The design review committee for the Veterans Plaza includes Jordan Ford, senior class gift advisor; Geoff Halberstadt, 2011 senior class gift development chair; Ford Stryker, associate vice president for physical plant; Gordon Turow, director, campus planning and design; Dave Zehngut, University architect; Rachel Prinkey, project manager for the 2011 senior Class gift; Jan Muhlert, director, Palmer Museum of Art; Eliza Pennypacker, professor of arts and architecture; Capt. Chase Doty, Penn State professor of naval science and 1983 alumnus; Maj. Erik Orient, U.S. Marine Corps and 1999 Penn State alumnus; and Rear Adm. David Titley, oceanographer of the U.S. Navy and 1980 Penn State alumnus.

The tradition of class gifts began when the class of 1861, at its reunion in 1890, gave the University a portrait of Penn State's first president, Evan Pugh, which still hangs in the lobby of Old Main. For more information about Penn State's senior class gift program, visit online.

  • Rendering of future Penn State Veterans Plaza

    IMAGE: Ennead Architects LLP
Last Updated September 10, 2012