University East Plaza

Cleveland, OH

This plaza is the redesign of an underused public space, conceived to transform a visible intersection into a gateway to the University Circle district.

This district in Cleveland includes universities, art studios, music conservatories, and other educational and cultural institutions, as well as healthcare and residential buildings. Here, open spaces serve multiple people and uses; as a campus and a neighborhood. Replacing an existing plaza, the new space serves the new district identity and sustainable values. It is located across from the new Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, which together create the neighborhood threshhold.

In a subtle gesture of separation, the plaza lifts slightly above surrounding grades, giving users a vantage over the street and increasing visibility from the street into the plaza. The design creates a plaza and an informal stage for students, taking advantage of who is living there and supporting the arts and cultural neighbors. On any given day, you can find people practicing violin in the plaza at lunch. 

As a frame to the plaza, three linear light sculptures, aligned to appear as a single thread of light, meander through the existing tree canopy. For pedestrians and nighttime diners in the plaza, this defines the space. From the street, the element is a beacon giving visibility and a unique image to the plaza. 

Healthy existing trees influenced the grading and shape of the plaza. Pervious concrete paving maximizes stormwater infiltration to recharge the water table, reduces runoff, and eliminates drainage utilities. Coastal dune grass, durable and salt tolerant, eliminates the requirement for annual replanting in spring. We designed benches from salvaged antique Amish barn timbers, which gives material richness to the plaza.