Wilkins Plaza and Horizon Hall create new ways to connect

If you have not been through the center of George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus lately, you’ll notice a lot has changed. While campus was quiet this summer, many changes took shape for the Core Campus Project.

The east side of Wilkins Plaza near David King Hall and Southside is now fully open. Improvements to the plaza include new student voice walls, a slate wall for chalking, new tables and chairs, and smart poles that provide WiFi, lighting, and power connections. The smart poles will be illuminated in Mason green and gold with the ability to change colors for special events and holidays.

The exterior of Horizon Hall is fully enclosed with building materials, and interior finishing work is underway. The installation of furniture and audiovisual equipment should start in November. Horizon Hall is planned to open for classes for the spring 2021 semester.

Due to COVID-19, the Core Campus Project encountered some delays through supply chain disruptions and workforce availability.

Cathy Pinskey, program director for Facilities, said supply chain issues mainly occurred early in the pandemic.

“There were a number of companies that had closed in nearby states that made it difficult to get some of the exterior enclosure materials for the building on site,” she said.

Despite these issues, project teams have done everything possible to remain close to schedule.

Horizon Hall will be the new home for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The six-story, 218,000-square-foot building will hold classrooms, community spaces, a Mason Innovation Exchange (MIX), and many of CHSS’s departments and interdisciplinary programs.

This fall should be the last semester for Robinson Hall B, which will be demolished once Horizon Hall is occupied. The Robinson B site will be used for a new outdoor amphitheater and courtyard.

There is one notable absence amid all the new additions to Wilkins Plaza: the George Mason statue, which moved to a temporary location on Holton Plaza earlier this summer.

Utility infrastructure work will now begin on the west side of Wilkins Plaza. Pinskey said these improvements will include a new water feature, the Enslaved People of George Mason Memorial, and the return of the George Mason statue on a new base.

Elements of the old plaza will be given a new life within the project. “Lumber from the trees removed from Wilkins Plaza last year has been saved and reused to build benches in Horizon Hall,” Pinskey said.

When asked about her favorite features of the Core Campus Project, Pinskey highlighted the different engagement spaces being developed.

“The outdoor spaces we are creating at the core of campus will provide significant opportunities for engagement among Mason students, faculty, staff and community members," Pinskey said. “What could have been just a routine maintenance project has done a lot to transform the core of our Fairfax Campus.”