Ellen S. Hope Memorial Plaza, St. Louis, MO
Ellen S. Hope Plaza, St. Louis, MO

St. Louis,


United States

Ellen S. Clark Hope Plaza

Located at the eastern edge of Washington University Medical Center’s campus, this 2.2-acre rectilinear plaza was designed by the artist Maya Lin, in partnership with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., to provide a place for repose for patients and their guests. The courtyard, completed in 2010 fronts the northeast entrance of the BJC Institute of Health, and is framed, but not completely bound, by buildings. Though the perimeter of the space is defined by straight lines and right angles, its interior embraces biomorphic shapes. Viewers are intended to experience the plaza both from the ground and from above. Viewed from one of the surrounding buildings, the abstract composition of the space becomes obvious. The plaza interrupts two streets, Euclid Avenue and Children’s Place. As the streets near or meet the plaza they lose their linear form, becoming curvilinear pedestrian pathways that frame organically-shaped planting beds. The separate beds, each planted with native vegetation, radiate around a central, circular fountain, titled Uplift, designed by Maya Lin. The fountain, measuring 70 feet in diameter, recedes into the sloped plaza. While the northeast edge of the level fountain rises above the ground, its opposite side sits relatively flush with the ground plane. A circular, concrete platform, 38 feet in diameter, extends over the water, inviting viewers to actively interact with the work. Walking on the platform, visitors are meant to feel as if they are floating on the water, much like the native water lilies placed in the fountain each spring. The platform interrupts a narrow stone border, which otherwise surrounds the perimeter of the pool. This border is bound by a wide ring of embedded aggregate, which is similarly framed by concrete. This diverse material palette contributes to the painterly composition of the space. At night, the platform displays a constellation-like pattern of lights. Working with Tillett Lighting Design Associates, Lin embedded fiber-optic lights to reference the St. Louis night sky on December 25, 1958, the birthday of the plaza’s benefactor and namesake, Ellen S. Clark.

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