The reimagined Wilkins Plaza is open after two-plus years of construction.
It includes a boulevard-like east-west walkway that extends from the Mason Pond Parking Deck to Southside.
The plaza, named for the late Roger Wilkins, the famed civil rights leader, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Robinson Professor of History and American Culture at Mason, is part of the Core Campus Project that has remade the central Fairfax Campus.
It is anchored by the Enslaved People of George Mason Memorial, which includes the intertwined narratives of two of George Mason IV’s slaves, the iconic George Mason statue, and the new Wilkins Fountain.
At the base of the Mason statue are four of Mason’s quotes that help explain his important and complex role in American history as the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and a slaveholder.
“Considered together, the entire plaza creates an axis of dialogue, with the Mason statue representing the traditional voice, the memorial panels representing the hidden voices, and the painted walls represent the voices of student organizations,” said Cathy Pinskey, program director at Mason Facilities. “To me that’s the most exciting part of it. It was always going to be a great plaza, but the addition of the memorial and the fountain make it uniquely Mason.”
The plaza was designed by landscape architects Perkins&Will in association with a diverse team of Mason faculty, staff and students. Perkins&Will also designed the new Horizon Hall. Whiting-Turner is handling the Core Campus Project construction.
There is still more work to be done on the Core Campus Project, with the green space adjacent to Horizon Hall and the plaza scheduled to open in late fall, and the redesigned Harris Theatre scheduled to open for the Spring 2022 semester, Pinskey said.
But the plaza is something special, said Stephanie Wolfgang, a senior landscape architect at Perkins&Will and the lead designer for the plaza project.
“Shedding light on the stories of those who have been underrepresented throughout history is a goal of Perkins&Will,” Wolfgang said. “When a narrative of equity and inclusion is so integral to our design and supported by our client’s values, it’s professionally rewarding.”