How can architectural design create a meaningful space from what was the industrial back yard of several science buildings and two disused power plants? Currently, five new projects are converging in the heart of campus adjacent to The Grove aiming to achieve exactly that. They are the bell tower and Letterwinners Walk at the north end-zone of the Vaught-Hemingway football stadium; the Walk of Champions (Ole Miss’s game-day processional path); the new STEM building; the Natural Products research building; and the removal of a disused power plant where William Faulkner worked the night shift and may have written As I Lay Dying. These five projects demonstrate the complexity of weaving together academic disciplines and beloved university literary and athletic traditions into a vital environmentally, ecologically, and historically sustainable campus.
The crux of this design problem and ultimately the germ for its solution was the ‘Faulkner’ power plant. Demolition was a contentious choice but to allow a spatially insignificant structure of unclear historical value to negatively direct the campus plan was not wise. Facilities Planning reached out to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and UM literary scholars to achieve consensus for removing the building and adding an exterior commemorative garden in its place. The idea was to create an exterior place, incorporating artifacts from the old building which will have significance in its respect for Faulkner. Instead of a disused building, this garden will fuse humanities, science, and athletic traditions. The Walk of Champions will form an axial connection between The Grove, the bell tower and Letterwinners Walk, and the stadium. The STEM building entrance will spill out into the garden to form a cross axis connecting with the Natural Products building. This demonstrates vision in finding ways for architectural resolutions to bring together seemingly unrelated aspects of university life together in a major public space honoring the past while designing for the future.