Voices past and present have a place in Mason's future

George Mason University students, faculty and staff are invited to sign a large steel support beam that will be installed in the new academic building that is the centerpiece of the Core Campus Project. 

The beam will be placed on the sidewalk between Fenwick Library and Student Union Building (SUB) I August 27-29. Stop by between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to make your mark. 

The signatures will be visible when the beam is installed in the new building. Your “support” will help build the future of the Fairfax Campus.  

The steel superstructure of the new building started going up this summer and should be finished by Thanksgiving. By late spring 2020, the exterior of the building should also be complete.  

Around mid-November, a large mock-up of the exterior materials will be constructed at the corner of the construction fencing near The MIX. Cathy Pinskey, program director with Facilities, said that the mock-up will serve as a preview of the final materials and installation techniques. 

“It’s essentially a corner of the building,” she said. “This will give us a good view of what the building components look like, and [it will] used as a standard for workmanship as the building ‘skin’ is constructed.” 

The new academic building is expected to open for classes in spring 2021. 

Underground utility infrastructure upgrades were completed this summer on the end of Wilkins Plaza closest to Southside. This section of the plaza will remain under construction until spring break 2020. 

“The reinvented plaza will include new student ‘voice walls’ to advertise events and other information, an event plaza, and smart poles to provide Wi-Fi and convenience power for new tables and benches,” said Pinskey.  

This week, mock-ups of the Enslaved People of George Mason Memorial will be installed on Wilkins Plaza, giving the community an idea of how the finished memorial will look.  

The installation will display information about the project and how to support the fundraising efforts. Those involved in the project will staff a table on the plaza during the first weeks of classes to share news about the memorial and answer questions.  

Wendi Manuel-Scott, associate professor of history and art history and co-director of the Enslaved People of George Mason project, says this has been the project of a lifetime for the students, faculty and design team involved. Manuel-Scott leads the project with co-directors Benedict Carton, professor of history, and George Oberle, history librarian with University Libraries. 

“We were thrilled to receive such phenomenal support from the Mason community,” said Manuel-Scott. “This support signals the importance of the project as a legacy effort to transform our physical campus space and our conversations about the relationship between the past and present.

“The components of the memorial create opportunities for creative, and even messy, dialogue about how slavery and freedom coexisted in the United States,” Manuel-Scott said.

The new academic building that is the centerpiece of the Core Campus Project is expected to be completed by January 2021.