Founded in 1900, Coppin State University (CSU) is a historically black institution in Baltimore, MD. The University is named in honor of Fanny Jackson Coppin, a teacher, principal, lecturer, missionary to Africa, and warrior against oppression. She conquered overwhelming obstacles and became a beacon of strength and dignity. RK&K was proud to be a part of this project, which included reimagining an on-campus plaza to honor the life and work of Fanny Jackson Coppin as well as the reverberating effects she had on generations of women and students.
RK&K’s Healthy Communities team began concept development of the plaza in early March 2021, delivering three concepts by the end of the month. Following a virtual stakeholder review meeting, the Site Development team began developing construction documents. Final design documents were completed by May, went out for bid the same month, and construction began in mid-summer.
The final design incorporates bluestone walkways, which seamlessly transition from a lower plaza to the base of a 30-foot-wide, ADA-accessible pedestal. There, visitors can ascend a gradual ramp or steps to stand next to a 7-foot-tall bronze statue of Fanny Jackson Coppin, designed by Frederick Hightower, renowned artist and sculpturer. The pedestal, designed with board-formed integrally colored concrete, complements pre-case white concrete risers featuring a quote from Fanny Jackson Coppin. A curvilinear swath of native grasses frames the sweeping lines of the two-foot-high pedestal. Forming the backdrop is a curved bench that responds to the shape of the ramp and uses the same materials as the benches found in Library Plaza. The bench is framed by another layer of native grasses softening the lines of the plaza.
RK&K’s services for the project included site development and master planning. Site programming included hardscape improvements, pedestrian circulation, ADA accessibility, donor pedestals, lighting, seating, and plantings.
Design and construction challenges included integrating a new monumental space into the existing campus design, developing a foundation to withstand the weight of a 2,500-pound bronze statue, forming walls and foundations on top of old building foundations, and maintaining an aggressive concept development, design, and construction schedule.