06-18-20 | Department

A New Hub That Maintains Tradition

Temple University Founder's Garden
by Sikora Wells

Major upgrades to Founder's Garden at Philadelphia's Temple University, designed by Sikora Wells, include a new bronze Temple Owl statue and a double-sided granite clad water wall. The original Owl, a Beniamino Bufano sculpture named Stella, was reinstalled at the opposite corner of the garden. The faceted granite blocks on the water wall behind the Owl sculpture recall Russell Conwell's famous "Acres of Diamonds" speech.
To seamlessly blend with the plaza's shape and design, the landscape designer collaborated with Eric'sons Dura Trench to create a unique linear drain system. The design of the stainless-steel drains allow the campus-standard concrete and clay pavers to be placed adjacently, surrounding a Temple "T" logo in the center of the plaza.

Founder's Garden at Temple University is a one-acre 1960's era modernist space and an important hub at the center of the Philadelphia campus. It is also home to the interment site of university founder, Russell Conwell. The lower plaza is surrounded by granite walls engraved with Temple's Great Teacher honorees. Sikora Wells led a 3.5-million-dollar renovation, which was sensitive to the embedded history of the historic George Patton design while creating a modern and functional plaza.
Highlighting the area is a new bronze Temple Owl statue and a double-sided granite clad water wall. The back side of the water wall reaches down to the lower level of the garden and is clad with the same granite material.


The new paving in the garden uses the campus standard concrete and clay pavers. Bringing in these materials maintains the sense of connection to the two major pedestrian corridors adjacent to the site. Scattered through the lower plaza are 17 engraved granite diamond medallions, one for each of the university's schools and another nod to Conwell's "Acres of Diamonds" speech. A monolithic radial granite bench hugs the southern edge of the plaza, providing a quiet seating area under the historic birch trees. The custom cut granite was carefully selected to match the stone used on the original walls and steps. The site drainage was integrated into the overall design using a custom stainless-steel radial trench drain that edges the plaza.

In addition to the new granite bench, existing smaller granite benches were reinstalled. Visitors looking for a more relaxing seating option can take advantage of the large fixed lounge chairs located on the secondary paths. The mixture of seating options provides several different degrees of sun, shade and quiet within a compact space.

Brick and steel arches were installed at the stairs to honor donors. The secondary paths are permeable aggregate paving which helps maintain the hierarchy of circulation but are still accessible for those using wheelchairs or other assistive devices.

Founder's Garden remains a signature space at the heart of the evolving campus at Temple University, as the original design continues to define the form of the garden, but renovation has brought updated materials, new iconic features and a focus on sustainability and usability.

As seen in LASN magazine, June 2020.

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