In mid-June, Bates will commence construction of Veterans Plaza: a site honoring military service as a form of public service, acknowledging war’s impacts on all involved, and providing peace and quiet in the open air for everyone.
With North Bardwell Street and its two dorms to the west, the Residential Village to the north, and Garcelon Field to the southeast, the specific site sits within a grassy triangle bounded by North Bardwell and two footpaths converging on the Village.
Screened by trees, the plaza will comprise a paved space of about 1,000 square feet, with benches; a marker at the entrance; and at center a naturally sourced stone focal object, says Shelby Burgau, the Facility Services project manager in charge.
She adds, “The space will be lit at night all year long.”
The installation, Bates’ Public Art Committee wrote in recommending the project to the college, will recognize “the contributions and sacrifice of veterans and [invite] reflection on the broader context of war and its impact on the lives and experiences of everyone affected by war.”
While the plaza will explicitly honor Bates veterans, the design overall is abstract and accommodating — incorporating trees and stone, secluded but inviting, useful for a variety of functions, and conducive to reflection and contemplation.
The plaza site is well-suited to the project, Burgau points out. The annual Back to Bates Veterans Luncheon is held nearby at the Benjamin Mays Center. There are flag poles and parking close at hand, and the site is readily accessible.
There’s also a historical connection, as the plaza site is close to the former “Sampsonville” — the housing established by the college (and nicknamed for Charles Sampson, who administered it) for World War II veterans who were attending Bates en famille.
The Veterans Plaza focal object, Burgau says, will consist of a grouping of basalt rocks. The sides of the rocks will be left natural, imperfections intact, but the tops will be polished smooth. Text on this centerpiece will read: “This space honors the service and sacrifice of Bates veterans.”
And text on the entrance marker will read: “Inviting reflection on the impact of war on the lives of everyone it touches.” Both inscriptions, Burgau notes, “were very thoroughly thought-through by the Veterans Recognition Project Committee.”
In fact, the finished plaza will culminate more than two years of planning informed by consultation with the college community. The design is by Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture, which previously handled the Ladd Library Plaza and Den Patio projects for Bates. The contractor is Carrier Landscape.
A dedication ceremony will be held when the project is complete and circumstances are once again suitable for public gatherings.
Speaking of COVID-19, it’s fair to wonder about the expense of this project in light of the pandemic’s budgetary impacts. But construction projects have been a part of the college’s financial reckonings these past several weeks. And in the case of Veterans Plaza — whose planning is already far along — it’s likely that pausing the project would cost more than moving forward with it.
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