Kutztown Alumni Plaza
Landscape Architecture by Wells Appel
The tiered water feature is a poured-in-place concrete battered wall with a limestone veneer. The water enters into a channel that runs the length of the wall and is fed with 12 emitters. The water flows over a continuous weir at a rate of 900 gpm and falls the height of the wall, hitting the architectural precast concrete stage, then flowing down the steps into a collection trench drain where it meets the water flowing from the western water feature and connecting channel.
Initiated by the Kutztown University Foundation and the Office of Alumni Relations, Wells Appel won a design competition to envision a plaza and commons for Kutztown University in Kutztown, Penn. The four-acre site, a transitional area between the academic and residential campuses, was transformed into an open and welcoming space
with artful landscaping, colorful hardscape patterns and two connecting water features on either side of the plaza.
The hardscape design draws inspiration from the local Amish quilting tradition, while the fountains take their design cue from the area’s stone masonry heritage. Of the five key design components – Alumni Walk, Campus Green, Alumni Plaza, Our Future Pavilion and Main Street – Alumni Plaza is the focal point of the project. With its combination of fixed and fluid surfaces and a mesmerizing water feature, the design invites participation and contemplation. When the water is turned off, the plaza serves as a stage for large gatherings and performances.
The Kutztown University Alumni Plaza is centrally located within the KU campus. It is contiguous to Main Street, which divides the academic from the residential campus and fronts “Old Main” on its southern boundary. The space is further defined by the Graduate Center on the east, the Boehm Science Building to the north and the Christopher House to the west.
The original goal for this project as directed by the Kutztown University Foundation was to simply create a central plaza and commons to be funded by Kutztown Alumni. Several design strategies have been employed, which raise the bar for
A continuous water channel runs between the bubbling boulder fountain (right) and the tiered wall fountain. The rectangular openings in the plaza hardscape are shallow stone water channels that slope down toward the tiered fountain. Two pumps are used on this project. A 10-hp centrifugal pump drives the water features; a second pump (3/4-hp) filters the water. A UV sterilization system neutralizes harmful bacteria and keeps the water free of most chemical additives typically used.
While the use of an infiltration meadow/basin predated the Pennsylvania stormwater management regulations requiring such Best Management Practices, it was the first introduction of these methods on the campus, and the beginning of an improved ecological approach to campus planning and design.
The use of water is handled with both traditional and modern technologies. The western wall is battered, as is often found on Lancaster County farms. While the agricultural reference is appropriate, the batter and increasing size of stones from bottom to top agitate the water and provide the desired visual and auditory effects. The fountains employ a UV sterilization system that enables the water to be free of most chemical additives typically used. The mechanical system is efficient, using surprisingly little water. All three water features are connected. Levelers and evaporation sensors minimize the need for refilling them.
The shallow stone water channel is illuminated at night with fiber optic lighting that is recessed in the channel cap. This system is flexible and safe for use with water features, provides a beautiful reflective surface, and visually announces the channel at night.
The users who are drawn to and animate a space are the ones who ultimately define successful design. The implementation of the Kutztown University design concepts has created a much needed “sense of place” and public gathering space for the university. This was the goal for the plaza and quad, which have been actively used and enjoyed for the
Kutztown Alumni Plaza Team
Project Lead/Landscape Architecture: Wells Appel, Philadelphia
Civil Engineering: Keystone Consulting Engineers, Inc
Fountain Design: Wesco Fountains Inc.
Lighting Design: Grenald Waldron Associates
Structural Engineering: Liberty Engineering