CLOKE PLAZA

2010 • School of Engineering, University of Maine, Orono, ME

Brick plaza, steel, bronze, stone, concrete, shovels, and landscaping. 30’ x 600’ x 200’.

© 2010 Buster Simpson

Cloke Plaza is a newly designed campus intersection, framed by an array of College of Engineering buildings. The plaza centerpiece is a contemporary bell tower set upon a red brick oval with black walkway intrusions. As the pre existing walkways converge into the new oval from different parts of the campus, the oval serves as a social hub and collector.


The twenty-one foot high campanile supports the historic Wingate Bell, long associated with the College of Engineering. The bell rang from the time Wingate Hall opened in 1894 until a fire in 1943 at Wingate Hall, the former home of the College of Technology, now the College of Engineering. The bell had been a signature icon at the University of Maine. After years of inactivity, the bell now rings again. The column is constructed of reflective stainless steel mesh and is internally illuminated with LED lights. The Campanile is wired with additional power and data lines to serve as a technological vitrine intended to showcase temporary phenomenological (sense data) exhibits. The kinetic moiré pattern references Dean Paul Cloke’s early electrical engineering research and honors his tenure as the University’s longest serving Dean of the College of Engineering. A locally quarried slate, will serve as a black board for an exterior façade facing the plaza, where professors and students can chalk thoughts and equations of the day.


The Bell Tower rests on a concrete pedestal which also intrudes upon a 36-ton Mount Waldo granite pluton. The granite has a unique natural split arch on one side and includes historical quarry drill marks. The relationship between the granite and that of the adjacent concrete pedestal emplacement is one of accommodation, which references the built environment upon the natural landscape. The stone serves as a stage with power and data line access. The Campanile aligns to the north and south campus axis, bordered with newly installed bio swale, intended to help mitigate campus storm water. The two-acre landscape surrounding the oval will consist of a low maintenance native wild field mix which requires mowing only once a year. Specimens such as the local unique Orono Sedge, a unique local wetlands plant, are planned for water infiltration sites.


Site-specific social seating is being considered for placement around the perimeter of the Cloke Plaza oval. One design approach would work with the University Composites Extrusion Pilot Plant at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center to create a unique seating prototype made of recycled materials.


The Advanced Structures and Composites Center has also been on the cutting edge of applied uses of carbon fiber as a structural material. Two 30-foot high arches with a 99-foot spread were erected in Cloke Plaza in the fall of 2009. The structures ended up proving to be temporary prototypes with a permanent installation slated for the summer of 2010. The arches served to define the plaza area as a majestic space and exemplify the University’s pedagogical mission as a dynamic laboratory. The arches will also function as a lightning arrester and as an antenna, perhaps contributing to the data stream which informs aspects of the campanile vitrine. Both lightning rods and antennas were part of Dean Paul Cloke’s teaching curriculum.


In an ode to the land grant history of the University of Maine, senior engineering students, will be asked to hand shovel snow around Cloke Plaza. This collective effort provides a passage for undergraduates, serves as a civic service to same maintenance costs, protects the campus environment from salt and abrasive sand, and suggests a mental and physical college credit. Shoulder to Shoulder.

Site Design by Todd Metten

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