Visit Cornell University on a lovely spring day, and you'll find the sprawling campus alive with fresh blooms and the pleasant sounds of birds chirping — not just throughout the Cornell Botanic Gardens but around nearly every nook and cranny of campus. Bailey Plaza is no exception, with its incredible display of ornamental evergreens, red-twigged dogwoods, and red maples.
But the area in front of Bailey Hall wasn't always so welcoming. It's hard to imagine, but before the plaza's completion in 2007, this area was nothing more than a parking lot. Today, it's one of the best spots to enjoy the sights and sounds of Cornell's bustling campus.
Bailey Hall is a neoclassical building in the center of Cornell's campus that has served two purposes since it opened. On the one hand, it is the university's largest classroom building. On the other hand, it’s also a concert hall. With this in mind, the building (and the area around it) sees a great deal of foot traffic — especially during the busiest times of each semester.
The area in front of Bailey Hall was nothing special before a massive refurbishment project was completed in 2007. As part of this project, a $17.3 million renovation of Bailey Hall and the area around it took place to beautify the site and improve the use of the building itself. One of the main goals of the project was to better utilize the space outside the building, promoting foot traffic and creating a gathering space of sorts.
As part of this project, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates designed the plaza we see today. A 1973 graduate of Cornell's Department of Landscape Architecture himself, Michael Van Valkenburgh took great care to ensure that the design of Bailey Plaza complemented the natural slopes and landscape of the campus. Incorporating a mix of natural cleft and thermal finish bluestone and 30-foot-long wooden benches made from Oregon Douglas firs, the plaza was completed in October of 2007 and has since been a staple of Cornell's campus.
The Bailey Plaza project was completed in collaboration with ARUP Structural Engineer Dan Euser, GIE Niagara Engineering, International Lights, O'Brien Stoneworks, Lechase Construction, Inc., and Cornell University's own Urban Horticulture experts.
In 2008, Bailey Plaza received the Building Stone Institute's Tucker Design Award, designed to "honor those who have achieved excellence in design through the incorporation and use of natural stone in building or landscape projects." Even more recently, in 2022, the project also received the SCUP Excellence in Landscape Architecture Merit Award.
Connecticut Stone is proud to have been the go-to bluestone supplier for the Bailey Plaza refurbishment project. And while we like to think that we played a small role in bringing this stunning design to life, the reality is that this is only possible with the dedication and talents of the designers, engineering teams, and construction teams involved in this massive undertaking. If you ever have the pleasure of being on Cornell's campus in Ithaca, New York, be sure to check out this work of art for yourself!
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